Headaches are a menace or that at some time or the other has affected each one of us. Although contact with a headache sufferer will not produce a headache in another, headaches are definitely a social problem that needs to be addressed. Headaches are also caused, in a large part, by the pressures of society. The chances of a healthy, secure, individual in a warm anxiety, free environment of becoming a chronic headache sufferer is remote.
All evidence indicates that headaches are a purely human complaint, unknown among simpler animal forms. Headaches mostly afflict those who are ambitious, anxious, intelligent, insecure, perfectionists by nature, discontent and emotional. In other words, human qualities make one vulnerable to headaches. Human beings accept with out question their predominance in the natural order of things. But they pay scant attention to the fact that from hangnails to terminal diseases from simple anxiety to violent psychosis, they spend more of their lives in mental and physical anguish than any other creature on earth.
Why the headaches?
Headaches affect so many people in such varying degrees that statistics are hard to compile. Headaches also appear to strike almost at will! It appears to the sufferer that elements of the metabolic, muscular, neural and vascular system combine to produce the torment of headaches. The causes behind a headache cannot always be immediately traced. This is because these are the results of subtle organic and psychic processes that are not always felt by the victim or instantly observed by the physician. However, there are some common reasons that underline most headaches.
Headaches due to brain tumor, blood clot or other brain diseases accounts for only 1-2 percent of all headaches, over ninety percent of the people who suffer chronic headaches, need never have suffered at all. They are not ill, and they have no special physical predisposition to headaches. The causes behind a headache cannot always be immediately traced. The causes behind a headache cannot always felt by the victim or instantly observed by the physician. Yet they suffer excruciating pain. Headaches victims can sometimes feel certain changes in their bodies. The feeling of depression or dread, which often heralds a headache, is caused by the fluctuations of the blood vessels of the brain and their effects on the emotions. The relentless throbbing is caused by the pulsation of the arteries engorged with blood vessels with blood headache – sufferers also complain feeling intense restriction of blood flow. However, there are some common reasons that under line most headaches.
When a person has headache several areas of the head can hurt. The muscles of the head and the blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain are sensitive to pain. Headache victims can sometimes feel certain changes in their bodies. The tissues of the brain itself never feel pain because they lack pain sensitive nerve fibers, stress, muscular tension, dilated blood vessels, and other triggers can stimulate the ends of these pains –sensitive nerves, called nociceptors. Headaches occur when the blood vessels in the head dilate and impinge on the pain –sensitive cranial nerves. The nerves send SOS messages to the control centers in the brain. Many responses then occur to restore equilibrium. But the only phenomenon that penetrates the consciousness of the sufferer is pain.
It is theorized that people who suffer from severe headache have lower levels of endorphins than people who are generally pain free. Thermography may be used in diagnosing headaches. An infrared camera converts skin temperature into a color picture or thermogram, with different degrees of heat appearing as different colors. Thermograms of headache patient patterns are different from those people who never or rarely get headaches.
In ancient times evil spirits were thought to cause headache. These had to be driven out, sometimes by drilling holes in the skull. The Ebers papyrus – the oldest known medical manuscript also mentions a cure for headache. Apparently the ancient Egyptians thought that that tying a ceramic crocodile with herbs stuffed into its mouth to the head of the patient could cure the problem. Perhaps, it was the tight compression that did the trick! American –Indians used Aspirin derived from the bark of the willow tree (Salix alba) to treat their head aches and The Romans too boiled willow bark to make pain killing portions and the ancient Greek physician , Hippocrates recommended the use of willow derivatives to relieve pain and fever .
Recognize your headache type
Throbbing migraine headaches usually affect one side of the head only (in some cases on both sides, all over the head back of the head). It is episodic in nature and may last a few hours or a few days. It may be preceded by or accompanied by an aura or warning consisting of unusual visual symptoms in the form of wiggy lines /dark or white spots. It is usually accompanied by nausea or vomiting, increased sensitivity of light or noise. There may be a family history of migraine. Certain food items or drinks some times provoke migraine attacks. Surprisingly migraine is more common among women than men.
Cluster head ache is characterized by sharp pain that usually affects one side of the head and is felt in or around the eye or forehead. It is usually accompanied by nasal congestion and redness or watering of the eye on the same side as the headache. The eye lid may droop and pupil may be constricted. It affects males much more. Females rarely suffer from it.
Chronic daily head ache
As the name indicates, this headache is of monotonous regularity –it occurs daily or almost daily. Four basic types of headache qualify as “chronic daily headache”. These are chronic tension type headache, so called transformed migraine, new daily persistent headache and the condition medically known as hemicranias.
The pain caused by tension headache is described as pressure or heaviness around the head or top of the head some times accompanied by a feeling of soreness or tightness in the back of the neck and shoulders. Sufferers feel as if there is a rubber band around the head some times accompanied by a feeling of soreness or tightness in back of the neck and shoulders. Sufferers feel as if there is a rubber band around the head. Other symptoms may include tiredness, lack of energy in concentration, or poor memory. This type of headache lasts for four hours and most patients describe it as being constantly present.
This a dull throbbing pain affecting the region around the eyes too. It is usually linked to allergies, sinus infection and changes in the weather.
These headaches are characterized by a continuous low grade headache between several episodes of increased pain throughout the day. Such headaches are a result of the wearing off of the effects of the pain killer. These headaches may be triggered by slight physical or mental effort. These are often accompanied by nausea, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, memory problems, difficulty concentrating and depression.
Medically called cold stimulus headache, this is sometimes caused by gulping down a frozen dessert (say an ice cream), which triggers an excruciating, sharp, shooting pain. This is caused by blood vessel spasms which are triggered by the intense cold. To avoid this, just go slow while eating your ice cream.
Harry Potter headache
Howard Bennet, a pediatrician in USA has recently published a paper about a previously unreported type of headache. He based his conclusions on three patients who had come to him complaining of persistent, dull headache that fluctuated through out the day. In one case the headache was accompanied by neck and wrist pain. None of his patients had had a fever or any other symptoms that would suggest an infection or neurological problem. But all three were in the process of devouring the latest Harry Potter book. The diagnosis there after was simple. The children’s headache was a variation of the tension headache. It was brought on by the effort required to read the 870-page book in one go. The obvious cure lay in taking a break from reading. Two of the patients preferred pain killers instead. When Bennet sent in his communication to the New England Journal of medicine, the journal editors promptly christened his paper, Hogwarts headaches –misery for muggers.
Not all headaches require medical attention. Some that result from missed meals or occasional muscle tension are easily remedied. Bio feed back, training, stress reduction, and elimination of certain foods from the diet can be used to control migraine. Regular exercise can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches relief can some times be obtained by using a cold pack or by pressing on the bulging artery in front of the ear on the painful side of the head. Most simple headaches can also be relieved by resting in a quiet room or by taking a non prescription pain killer. However, pain killers often simply mask the problem without addressing the cause. Also while popping a pain killer may seem to be short cut to comfort it may have repercussions, one may not be quite prepared for. One such unwanted side effect is called rebound headache .People who regularly use a pain killer for headaches more than twice a week, may experience chronic rebound headaches. When pain killers are over used, the body remains to adapt to them. As the effect of the pain killer wears off, the pain returns with a vengeance. Apart from certain migraine medicines that induce rebound headaches , mixed analgesics or drugs that contain a combination of caffeine , aspirin and acetaminophen and are especially known for causing rebound headaches . Moderate use of a simple analgesic such as ibuprofen, how ever does not increase the risk of rebound headaches. Many people take pain killers in anticipation of the next headache. This leads to a vicious cycle of increasing medication, consumption and increasing headache severity.
However a simple regimen may help prevent the occurrence of headaches:
· Eat regular meals
· Find ways to relieve tension. Take a walk or hit a punching bag
· Take it easy. don’t cram a lot of work before a week end or a holiday
· Try not to take your office aggravations home
· Recognize situations that have triggered headaches in the past , and try to avoid them or try to understand why these situations make you nervous
· Above all , practice moderation in all things
Those suffering from headaches may take some solace from the fact that, they are not alone. Headaches affect millions worldwide. So acute is the problem that the International Headache Society IHS was founded in 1981 and registered as a charity in England and Wales in 1995 and in USA, Headache Foundation (Chicago) and the American Headache society (founded1950) . The world headache Alliance (incorporated 1997) acts as an umbrella organization to a number of global headache groups and societies through offices in London and Toronto. Headache alliance brings together the efforts of 38 headache organizations in 26 countries –together representing the views and concerns of those whose lives are affected by head ache disorders. Thus it is obvious that serious malady or not, headaches are receiving due attention from researchers and health workers around the world.