HEADACHES

By Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D.

Carnrick Laboratories, Inc.

If you suffer from headaches, you have a lot of company. Over half of the patients seen in a doctor's office complain of headache.

It is extremely rare that a headache is a sign of a serious health problem. Most headaches are functional headaches, caused by how we live: fatigue, emotional upset, frustration, anger, etc.

In general, there are two types of headaches.

Functional headaches:

  1. Migraine
  2. Tension

In migraine type headaches the blood vessels in the head usually become stretched or swollen. The stretched or swollen blood vessels cause a throbbing head pain, that may feel like beating drums, every time the heart beats.

What is a migraine headache?

You might suspect a migraine type headache if you have one or more of the following symptoms.

Is there any other way to identify a migraine headache?

What is a tension headache?

A tension headache is sometimes called a "pressure" or muscle-contraction headache. It feels as though something is squeezing the head. Some patients describe the pain as a "too-tight band" around the head. Both neck and scalp may feel "sore."

What causes a tension headache?

A tension headache is most often caused by stressful or pressure situations that bring on fatigue or nervousness, which in turn causes SPASM or KNOTTING of the muscles of the shoulder, back-of-the-neck and scalp.

What are other symptoms of tension headache?

  1. Comes on without warning and usually following stress and emotion.
  2. May begin as mild but CONSTANT aching that gradually becomes more severe, like a vice or clamp on the head that is slowly being tightened.
  3. Usually involves *both* sides of the head.
  4. May be felt as pressure or soreness behind the eyes.
  5. May last for days, weeks, or longer. Some patients claim never to be free of headache.
  6. Nausea and vomiting may occur if headache becomes *very* severe.

In addition to pain, there are other problems associated with a headache.

Consider for example: Depressed outlook...
Head pain can threaten marriages...
The head pain can: Jeopardize your job because of absence of inefficiency...
The head pain can: Cause just plain "frustration" by limiting normal activities. The list of problems resulting from headache is never ending.


Headaches can be treated.

Your physician has available a variety of effective means for dealing with your particular type of headache.

So remember:

  1. Headache is one of the more difficult ailments to evaluate.
  2. Answer all your doctor's questions truthfully.
  3. It may take time to diagnose your particular type of headache. So, be patient.
  4. Do not try to treat yourself.
  5. Follow your doctor's orders.

HEADACHES: Warning Signs/Triggering Factors/Suspect Foods

Some of these tips might enable you to manage headache occurrences better.

Just prior to a headache there are early warning signs of its onset. If you can recognize early warning signs in yourself and immediately take your medication you may reduce headache intensity and shorten its duration. Some early warning signs are listed below:

Life style changes are often associated with the cause of the headache. These triggering factors can cause headache and if recognized and can be avoided might obviate the impending headache. The list below gives some headache triggering factors:

Foods are also implicated in the cause of headache and you may have already been suspect of a particular food associated with previous bouts with head-ache. Avoiding it may prove it was indeed the cause. Here is a list of foods commonly implicated by headache sufferers and the causative factor:



Food                                         Causative Agent

----                                         ---------------

Alcohol, particularly red wines and Histamine, champagne tyramine Strong or aged cheese, especially: cheddar Pickled herring Chicken livers Tyramine Canned figs Pods of broad beans Chocolate Fish, especially smoked fish Dairy products Eggs Unknown Wheat Nuts Tomatoes Cured meats - such as hot dogs, bacon, Sodium ham, and salami nitrite Certain snack foods Monosodium Chinese food glutamate

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