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How many times have you heard from someone “It’s just a headache,  it can’t be THAT bad!” If you haven’t ever had a migraine you can’t and won’t ever be able to understand just how bad that it can be. And having someone tell you that its just a headache only makes a person with a headache ANGRY! That is not something that you want to hear when you are dizzy, and nauseated and the lights feel like they are killing you.  However, there are many different categories of headaches. Lets look at each category. Lets also look at ways we can treat headaches without using medication.
Headaches can be classified into 5 different categories, depending on where the pain is and the symptoms associated with the headache.

  1. Tension Headaches- This is the most common kind of headache. It feels like a constant pressure or ache around the head. Most commonly at the temples or back of head and neck.  These generally do not cause any nausea or vomiting and usually do not get in the way of normal daily activitie. Usually these can be treated with over the counter pain relievers and trying to reduce stress.
  2. Cluster headaches- These usually affect more men than women, and are recurring headaches that happen in groups or cycles.The onset is noted to be sudden and are often cause sever debilitating pain on one side of the head. Usually someone suffering with this type of headache will also have a watery eye and nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side as the headache. There is no cure for this type of headache but there are medication that can cut the frequency and duration. The cause is unknown, but there could be a genetic link.
  3. Sinus Headaches-  Are usually a result of a persons sinus(es) becoming inflamed or infected. Usually a fever comes along with these types of headaches and can be diagnosed based on symptoms. The treatment for these headaches are usually antibiotics, antihistamines or decongestants.
  4. Rebound Headaches- These are generally caused by an overuse of painkillers to treat headaches. Over the over-the-counter meds such as tylenol or ibuprofen can be the cause as well as prescription pain killers.
  5. Last but not least Migraine Headaches- To be diagnosed with migraines a patient must meet the following criteria.
  • At least five previous episodes of headaches
  • Lasting between 4-72 hours
  • As least two out of these four: one-sided pain, throbbing pain, Moderate-to-severe pain,  and pain that has interfered with and is worsened by routine activity. And has at least one associated feature: nausea &/or vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound.

          A migraine may be precipitated by an aura, such as visual distortions, or hand numbness ( About 15-20% of people with migraines will experience an aura.)

So now we have broken down headaches into categories including migraines. Now lets break migraines down into categories and look at each of the types of migraines. Knowing what kind of migraine you suffer from is essential in finding the correct treatment.  Here’s a fact: 60% of women and 70% of men with migraines are improperly diagnosed. 

The two major types of migraines are

  1. Migraines without Aura (the common migraine) – This is the most common and most frequent type of migraines. Symptoms can include moderate to severe pulsating headache pain that comes on without warning and is usually unilateral (one side of the head). They can also cause  nausea and vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to sound, light or even smells.  Usually these headahes will last 4-72 hours and may repeat a few times a year. Movement can make the headache worse.  Migraine with aura is the type most prone to worsens with frequent symptomatic meds. 
  2. Migraines with Aura (also called a classic or complicated migraine) – Usually with this type of migraines people will have visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that may appear 10-60 minuets before the onset of the actual headache, and generally last less than an hour. The aura may occur without headache and can strike at any time.  Less common aura symptoms may include, abnormal sensation or numbness, muscle weakness on one side of the body, tingling sensation of the face or hands, difficulty speaking and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite and increased sensitivity to noise, light and smells may precede the headache. 

There are also other types of migraines that don’t fall into either of the above categories. We will look at three of the most common other kinds of migraines.

  1. Migraines without Headache- These are characterized by problems with vision, or other aura symptoms. But typically occur with no head pain. Headache specialist have suggested that dizziness, fever or unexplained pain in a particular part of the body could also be types of headache-free migraine.
  2. Hemiplegic Migraines- (this is a sub-type of Migraine with aura)- These are rare  but very severe types of migraine that causes temporary paralysis. That can last up to several days, and often on one side of the body prior to a headache.  Symptoms can include: vertigo, a prickling or stabbing sensation, difficulty seeing or speaking,  and may begin prior to the headache pain and will generally stop shortly thereafter.  This type of migraine can be genetic.
  3. Chronic Migraine-  Theses are characterized by headaches occurring more than 15 days per month for more than three months, and have features of migraines at least 8 days a month. They occur with or without an aura, and usually require preventative medications behaviors to control.

So now that we have looked at all the different type of headaches and migraines, lets look at some options for non-pharmacological ways to treat headaches. 

  1. Accupuncture 
  2. Biofeedback
  3. Massage
  4. Vitamin and Mineral supplements like B12, COQ10 and magnesium
  5. Relaxation techniques 
  6. Exercise
  7. Spinal Manipulation 
  8. Talk Therapy
  9. Trans Randal Magnetic Stimulations 
  10. Diet changes- Culprits can be alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, canned foods, processed meats, aged cheese, cultured dairy, MSG, and aspartame.
  11. Herbal remedies- Feverfew and butterbur are the commonly used herbs.
  12. Applying pressure to pressure points.
  13. Sleep- poor sleep and migraines often go hand in hand. 
  14. Keep up with good habits- dont skip meals, stay hydrated, stay at a healthy weight. 

You have been given a LOT of imformation about headaches and ways to treat them without medication. Use this information to become educated and help to guide your care in future. 


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3 thoughts on “It’s JUST a Headache

  1. Love your post, Amber. Years ago I tttied biofeedback for my migraines. I have to.say it really helped. You work on raising the temperature in your index finger while you are attached to a biofeedback machine. The closer you get to raising the temperature the slower the machine beeps. The goal is to find imagery that works to raise the temperature. After a few sessions you can do this on your own without the machine.

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