Whatever their specific natures, headaches are among the most difficult ailments addressed in modern pain management. Headaches are caused and influenced by a wide variety of factors. These factors include genes, environmental pollutants and personal stress levels. Though modern medicine has taken great strides in treating headaches, the headache remains a perplexing condition in many key ways.
It is instructive to review the major types of headaches that currently challenge medical science. The tension headache is the most common form of headache people experience. Also known as tension-type headaches, these headaches vary widely in terms of severity. In some cases, this type of headache so mild it is little more than a nuisance. In other cases, tension headaches are incredibly painful and can easily lead to absenteeism and other serious problems.
Tension headaches are experienced very differently by different sufferers. A sufferer may feel pain centered around the neck, eyes, scalp or forehead. Oftentimes, tension headaches are simply caused by stress to muscles and tendons. In other cases, the causes are less clear. Fortunately, modern medical science has taken great strides when it comes to preventing and treating tension headaches. Over-the-counter medications can give people significant relief. Additionally, many people with chronic tension headaches have benefited from the use of prescription SSRI medications.
The cluster headache is another serious neurological condition. People who suffer from cluster headaches face significant challenges in the courses of their lives and occupations. Often a chronic disorder, the cluster headache is typically associated with pain on one side of the head or the other. This disorder is typified by “clusters” of painful headaches that occur in fairly quick succession. Currently, there is no known cure for cluster headaches. However, treatment with oxygen or triptan can reduce the seriousness of headache clusters. Cluster headaches are far more likely to affect men than women. In more severe cases, brain surgery non-invasive stimulation of the brain may offer relief. Opioid medicine is typically not recommended for the treatment of cluster headaches.
While the aforementioned headache types are certainly serious, the migraine is perhaps the most damaging and painful type of headache. Besides serious head pain, the migraine is associated with nausea, vomiting and painful sensory sensitivity. Migraine patients may find themselves virtually overwhelmed by smells, sounds or bright lights. Any amount of physical exertion can exacerbate migraine pain.
Many migraine headache sufferers report strange “auras” before experiencing their headaches. These predictive phenomena comprise unusual disturbances in language, sensory perception and motor function. At times, auras are experienced alone or with little accompanying headache. Like many other types of headache, the causes of migraines are not fully understood by science.
Occipital neuralgia is more rare than most other headache-causing conditions. This disorder is caused by inflamed or damaged occipital nerves, which are located from the base of the neck up through the scalp region. Due to its similarities with migraine disorder, occipital neuralgia is often misdiagnosed. Trigeminal neuralgia is another infrequent cause of severe stabbing headaches and facial pain.
These are just a few of the more common types of headaches. Collectively, headaches are common causes for disruption of employment and absenteeism. As headaches are associated with irritability and depression, headache patients can experience family and personal problems as well. When suffering from a painful headache, one may have the natural impulse to eliminate the pain immediately and at any cost. For this reason, people often use opioid painkillers to treat headaches. However, it is far wiser to address the root causes of headaches. It is also sensible to pursue any and all promising avenues of alternative, non-invasive treatment. Since mood and environmental factors can contribute to headaches, headache patients can potentially improve their situations greatly by reducing life stress. Because headache symptoms are not readily visible to outside viewers, people with headaches are often treated dismissively. Considering the fact that headaches are well-recognized as serious medical phenomena, dismissive attitudes are short-sighted and unfair.