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Headache (headache) Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Headache: what is it?

Headaches (headaches) are very common pains in the skull.

There are several types of headaches, the vast majority of which occur under the following syndromes:

  • Tension headaches, which also include chronic headaches daily.
  • Migraines.
  • Cluster headache (cluster headache).

Tension headache , by far the most common headache, is felt as local tension in the skull and is often related to stress or anxiety, lack of sleep, hunger or alcohol abuse.

According to the International Headache Society, there are three types of tension headaches:

  • episodes of infrequent headache: less than 12 episodes per year, each episode lasting from 30 minutes to 7 days
  • frequent episodes: 1 to 14 episodes on average per month, each episode lasting from 30 minutes to 7 days
  • Chronic headache daily: felt at least 15 days a month, for at least 3 months. The headache can last several hours, often continuously.


Migraine or tension headache?

Migraine is a particular form of headache. It manifests itself in fits of intensity ranging from mild to very severe pain, which can last from a few hours to several days. A migraine attack often begins with a pain felt on one side of the head or located near an eye. Pain is often perceived as pulsations in the skull, and is aggravated by light and sound (and sometimes odors). Migraine can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

The exact causes of migraine are still poorly understood. Some factors, such as hormonal changes or certain foods are identified as triggers. Women are 3 times more affected by migraines than men.

The cluster headache (headache of Horton) is characterized by frequent, brief but extremely intense headaches occurring mostly at night. The pains are felt around one eye and then extend in the face, but always in a unilateral way and always on the same side. Episodes can last from 30 minutes to 3 hours, several times a day, for a few weeks to several months. This type of headache is more common in men and fortunately rare.

Warning. There are many other causes for a headache, some of which can be a sign of a serious illness. A doctor should be consulted in case of a sudden and intense headache.


In industrialized countries, tension headaches would affect about 2 in 3 adult men and more than 80% of women. In general, up to 1 in 20 adults would suffer from headache each day .

Vascular pain in the face affects people 20 years of age or older and affects less than 1 in 1000 adults.

Symptoms of headache (headache)

  • Pain on both sides of the head concentrated around the eyes. This pain gives the impression of a bandage all around the head, which sometimes radiates in the neck.
  • Tension of the muscles of the neck and shoulders, which sometimes become sensitive to touch.
  • Concentration problems or difficulty falling asleep.

If the headache is felt after a blow to the head, it is recommended to consult quickly a doctor, which also if the headache is accompanied:

  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Fever.
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Pain in the eye or ear.


People at risk for headache

  • Adults . Headaches affect adults as well as children. They are more frequent and more intense in adults and peak until around the age of 40.
  • Women . Tension headaches are most commonly seen in women and are often related to the menstrual cycle.

Risk factors

  • The periods of the female menstrual cycle.
  • Stress or anxiety.
  • The Depression.
  • Poor posture or prolonged holding of the same position.
  • Bruxism (cringe)

Prevention of headache (headache)

Can we prevent?

Preventive treatment may be recommended when:

  • Headaches often appear.
  • Headaches are not relieved by the usual medications and stress control measures.

Headaches become very bothersome and require you to take painkillers too often (for example, more than 2 or 3 times a week).


Basic preventive measures

The most common methods to reduce the frequency or severity of tension-type headache headaches:

  • The reduction of stress.
  • The reduction of alcohol consumption.
  • Regular exercises such as swimming or walking.
  • An ergonomic workstation that reduces the strain on the cervical muscles.
  • Some preventive medications.

Medical treatment of headache (headache)

A change in lifestyle, to reduce the causes of stress and fatigue, is sometimes enough to eliminate a recurring headache.

Headaches usually resolve on their own and can be relieved with the help of a pain medication sold in pharmacies.

Pain medication over the counter .

  • Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Liqui-Gels Advil).
  • Drug combination: Excedrin, Tylenol Ultra-Efficace. Drug combinations are sometimes more effective, especially those containing caffeine.
ATTENTION to headaches caused by drug abuse. It is recommended not to take medication for headache more than 2 or 3 times a week. The over-use of these medications, mostly found over-the-counter, can cause a “rebound headache” – a vicious cycle that sets in when their action stops working, forcing them to take a dose of medication.

Prescription drugs .

Prescription medications may be prescribed to relieve occasional headache attacks, but they are mostly used preventively to decrease the frequency and intensity of seizures.

    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) , such as naproxen or ketorolac, taken on a regular basis daily for a period of time. However, these medications have some side effects.
    • Tricyclic antidepressants , such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline, or anticonvulsants, such as topiramate and gabapentin.
    • Muscle relaxants , such as tizamidine.
    • Triptans, ergotamine and dihydroergotamine are useful in the prevention of tension headaches associated with migraine headaches.
  • To prevent cluster headache and reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures, several medications can be used, including verapamil.

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