The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50% of the adult population globally has experienced a headache within the last year. Between 2-4% experience headaches 15 or more days every month. It’s one of the most common conditions experienced by your nervous system and can derail your life depending on what type of headache you suffer from.
Something that affects so many should be a primary focus of the medical community.
However, doctors only get about four hours of undergraduate training on all headaches. That means, they don’t know enough to diagnose or properly treat their patients who come to them with pain that comes back again and again.
Even patients are uninformed about what they might be experiencing and what they can do to relieve the pain.
Governments don’t allocate money for headache research because they are neither contagious or fatal. Unfortunately, they overlook the massive burden headache disorders cause in lost work hours and the impact on patient quality of life. The cost of medication sold and time missed from work due to headaches has been estimated to cost around $50 billion a year.
What Are Headaches?
Chances are, you’ve probably experienced more than one headache in your life – from the mild pain of a tension headache to the full-blown agony of a migraine. There are over 150 types of headaches but it isn’t always clear what causes them and not all treatments work for all patients.
In the rush of your day, you might be in such a hurry that you take a couple of pills and keep going, hoping the pain will go away. However, if the cause of your headache is examined carefully, you may be able to prevent them before they start.
4 Common Headaches
- Sinus headaches are usually associated with colds, flus, and chilly winter months. The pressure in your sinus cavity builds slowly and your head begins to throb. Bending over can make your head feel even worse. Once the infection passes, the headache fades. People may mistake migraine headaches or allergy symptoms for sinus headaches. If you get them regularly but are not experiencing the other signs of a sinus infection – such as a stuffy nose and nasal discharge – you should consider consulting your doctor.
- Migraine headaches are suffered by approximately 45 million people in America. There are many different types but they share two things in common: they hurt and they drastically disrupt your daily life. These types of headaches can last for hours or days. Ocular migraines can render you temporarily blind. Cluster headaches come in waves. Sensitivity to light, sound, and a nausea similar to motion sickness are a few of the worst symptoms that cannot be ignored.
The root cause of most migraines is the temporal artery located at the base of the brain. During a headache, this artery enlarges, releasing chemicals from the nerve fibers around it. Triggers for this are thought to be stress or allergens in the air or environment. Scientists are making great strides in the treatment of this form of debilitating headache and your doctor may be able to suggest more options now than even a few years ago.
- Tension headaches are common in our fast-paced modern world. Children, finances, work, and so forth can cause frustration that leads to this type of headache. Researchers estimate that almost 80% of the population gets these headaches. It often begins in the forehead. You may feel it in the back of your head and neck. Throbbing may result if it goes on too long. Stress and muscle tension are thought to be the primary causes for these headaches and women are more likely to have them.
- Dental headaches can be caused by Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder. This is defined as problems with the muscles and joints connecting your jaw to your skull. This can lead to facial pain and headaches. The cause of TMJ can be bad posture, poor jaw alignment, or even stress. Grinding your teeth in your sleep, known as Bruxism, can also lead to headaches and jaw soreness or stiffness when you wake up.
- Medication-overuse headaches are rarely talked about but are one of the most common reasons for headache disorders. They’re caused by excessive use of medication to treat headache. It affects about 5% of the population of developed nations (more women than men). MOH happens on more days than not and remains persistent throughout the day. It is often worst when you first wake up.
There are as many types of headaches as there are causes for headaches. You don’t have to suffer alone. Talking to your doctor may give you options you didn’t know you had but you also need natural, non-medication solutions that you can apply at home if a headache hits you.
9 Tips to Calming Headache Pain
- Drink plenty of water.
- Lower alcohol intake.
- Use a cold compress on the back of the neck or temples.
- Make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep.
- Consider a cold water diffuser with essential oils (peppermint and lavender have been shown to be highly effective with tension headaches).
- Have a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea.
- Take a walk, stretch, or do some yoga to increase blood flow.
- Practice meditation.
- Evaluate your diet!
Often, various types of headaches are triggered by previously unknown allergens. By practicing an elimination diet (something I talk about in great detail in my book Fire in the Belly), you can remove all but a few foods and gradually add back what you usually eat.
You would be shocked – truly shocked – at how many aches, pains, stomach upset, poor sleep, stress, and so forth are caused by an allergy or intolerance you didn’t know you had.
Headache disorders affect tens of millions of people regularly so you are not alone! It’s time to take control of this pain and get your life back.