The most common health complaint in the modern world is headaches. Headaches affect 75% of the population with reports showing a person will suffer from one or more headaches within the year.
There are three major categories of headaches:
- Primary headaches; cluster, tension headaches and migraines
- Secondary headaches; due to an underlying structural problem in the neck or head
- Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches: Occur when the nerves in the head and upper neck are inflamed.
The Common headache
The Common headache is most frequently reported and readily treatable. Common headaches involve pain in or around the head or face region on either or both sides. The pain is classified as an ache or a pounding sensation. The pain can be widespread or around a particular area. Symptoms of this type of headache include; nausea, visual changes and sensory changes. Headache severity is less common in headaches than cluster headaches or migraines but duration and frequency vary. It is important to be aware that severity is not a good indicator for whether or not they are serious. Severe underlying conditions could be indicated by persistent mild headaches.
Other types of head pain including- Cluster headaches, Migraines and Neuralgias are not considered to be in the same category as common headaches and are placed in their own categories.
Diagnosing a headache involves differentiating between the most common forms of headache and those that may indicate an underlying illness. The types of headache can be categorised in various ways. One method is as follows:
- ‘Normal’ headaches- excessive nerve stimulation, food reaction, hangover, fasting, rebound, exercise and cough headaches
- Recurring headaches
- ‘Nerve’ headaches
- Muscle-contraction headaches.
- Medication-misuse headaches.
- Head injury headache
- Serious causes of headache such as hydrocephalus, sub-arachnoid haemorrhage, meningitis, encephalitis, brain tumour, cerebral oedema, high blood pressure, stroke, temporal arteritis and benign intracranial hypertension.
Occipital Neuralgua is the result of compression or irritation of the occipital nerves due to injury, entrapment of the nerves, or inflammation of the muscles and nerves and lastly bone and blood abnormalities.
Migraines are a common and distressing disorder which can limit the person’s quality of life. Studies have shown the incidence of migraine to be 9-10%. From this about 17% of suffers are the female population in comparison to 6% of suffers from the male population. Thus, about 2 million Australians can be expected to suffer from migraine with about 1.5 million women and about 500,000 men respectively. It is thought that more women suffer migraines than men due to hormonal factors. Migraines can occur throughout childhood however they are most common in the 20’s and 30’s and become less frequent in the 40’s. Migraines may occur recurrently over many years or even decades. Frequency may vary greatly in the same person over time, from a few years up to several weeks.
Causes and Symptoms
- Neck problems
- Sinus conditions
- Eye conditions
- Dietary triggers and eating habits
- Skipping meals
- Depression and anxiety
- Pore posture
- Dental and Jaw problems
- Aching or tightness/ pressure/ constriction of variable intensity frequency and duration about the head region
- Myofascial pain syndromes and Fibromyalgia
- Trauma to the head
- Hormonal triggers
- Physical and emotional triggers
- Environmental triggers
The Impact of Headache
The World Health Organisation [WHO] revealed headache disorders remain under recognised and under treated. Headache disorders can impose on the affect individuals lives, impose a burden on the individuals, their families and the community as well as cause disability for that individual. A person with a severe headache disorder can have an impaired quality of life, may experience personal suffering and financial costs. Headache disorders can interfere with social activity and work capacity as well as employment.
An individual coping with chronic headache disorders and migraines may be predisposed to other illness such as depression. Depression is three times more likely to effect and individual who suffers from migraines or severe headaches in comparison to healthy individuals.
Headaches are a common ailment which varies in intensity, pain and location. Although the majority of headaches are a temporary nuisance some can be more serious, concerning and disruptive.