Random Ramblings

On the hell in my head . . .

Yeah, I know. This was supposed to be a grammar related post this week. But when I came up with the idea I'd just come off of some major editing and I was all fired up, and now the fire has kind of fizzled out. ;-)

So instead I'm going to ramble about something that's near and dear to my . . . head. Headaches. I suffer from a variety of headaches, the worst being what's called an ice pick head. It's aptly named, because it feels like an ice pick is being driven through your head over and over again. It usually occurs on only one side of the head, most often behind the ear or eye, sometimes in the back of the head.

The pain itself is intense - we're talking blinding, drop what you're doing intense - but it only lasts for a few seconds. However, like I said above, you'll feel the stabbing over and over - usually over the course of a few minutes, sometimes off and on for an hour or so. And then they'll just vanish as quickly as they came.

Here's the fun part. They have no idea what causes them. There are no triggers, no other symptoms, although 25% of the people who get ice pick headaches also suffer migraines. But because they don't know what causes them, there's no way to prevent them. And there's no point in taking anything for them because by the time a pain-killer kicks in it'll be all over with.

So having been hit by a series of these ice pick headaches this week, along with a doozy of a sinus headache, I decided to do some research on headaches. Below is a list of the 15 most common types of headaches.

Rebound headaches Rebound headaches are chronic headaches caused by medication overuse. Regularly taking any pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) more than twice a week, or taking triptans (migraine drugs) for more than 10 days a month, can put you at risk for rebound headaches in just a few months. Don't try to treat these on your own. A doctor can help you stop the culprit drug, using alternatives until it's out of your system.

Tension headaches This is the most common type of headache, which usually feels like a constant aching or pressure - rather than throbbing - on both sides of the head or at the back of the head and neck. Triggers can include stress, anxiety, bad posture, and clenching your jaw, and these headaches can become chronic, although they usually aren't severe. Experts aren't sure of exact cause, although it may be due to altered brain chemicals or mixed signals in the nerves leading to the brain. These usually respond to over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Stress-relief may help.

Dental headaches There are dental-related conditions that can trigger headaches or face pain, such as bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Bruxism is grinding your teeth at night, while TMJ affects the joints, located just in front of your ear, which connect the jaw to the skull. TMJ can be caused by bad jaw alignment, stress, poor posture (like sitting at a computer all day), or arthritis, which affect the cartilage, muscles, or ligaments in the jaw. Your dentist can help diagnose these types of headaches, and treatment includes stretching the jaw, hot or cold packs, stress reduction, and bite guards.

Cluster headache These one-sided headaches are short-lived (15 minutes to 3 hours), but excruciating. These are so painful they're sometimes called the suicide headache. Cluster headaches recur regularly, even multiple times daily, over a certain period of time and then may be followed by a headache-free period of months or even years. There may be redness and tearing in one or both eyes. More common in men than women, cluster headaches can be treated with triptans or oxygen (OTC painkillers may not help). Triggers can include alcohol, cigarettes, high altitudes, and certain foods.

Migraines Migraines are severe headaches that are three times as common in women as men. The cause isn't clear, but genes do play a role, and brain cell activity may affect blood vessel and nerve cell function. One common migraine trigger is change, including hormones, stress, and sleeping or eating patterns. Treatment can include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or triptans (such as Imitrex or Zomig), which are drugs that help treat or prevent migraines.

Caffeine headaches You love your coffee, but it can be a cruel companion. For example, if you have two cups of coffee every day at 9 a.m., and then miss those cups when you oversleep on Saturday - boom! - you can end up with a caffeine withdrawal headache. You will be more likely have them, though, if you drink a lot (say, five cups of coffee a day), then go cold turkey. You have two options, you can take caffeine when you normally do and feed the addiction, or quit altogether.

Orgasm headaches Orgasm-induced headaches are caused by, well, having an orgasm. These are relatively rare and are more common in younger people, particularly men. They usually start shortly after intercourse begins and end in a "thunderclap" headache at climax. A dull headache can often linger for hours or a day. There is often no known cause for these headaches and they usually go away on their own. A dose of pain reliever before sex may help ease the pain.

Early morning headaches If you're waking up in pain, there are several possible culprits. Migraines are more likely to happen in the morning, or medication may be waning in your body as you sleep, which causes a rebound headache. Sleep apnea sufferers may also be more prone to headaches early in the day, as are those with dental headaches.

Sinus headaches People with migraines often mistake them for sinus headaches. (One study found that 88 percent of people with a history of sinus headaches probably had migraines instead.) Symptoms like sinus pressure, nasal congestion, and watery eyes can happen in both types. A true sinus headache is related to an infection and comes with nasal discharge that is green or tinged with red. Sinus infections often resolve with time or antibiotics, if necessary, and shouldn't cause nausea or light sensitivity, which are migraine symptoms.

Ice cream headache Brain freeze! Most people have experienced the shooting head pain that can occur while enjoying a icy cold drink or treat on a hot day. People with migraines may be especially prone to them. They have an impressive medical name - sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia - but they're not all that serious. Experts think a cold sensation on the roof of the mouth can cause an increase in blood flow to one of the brain's arteries. The cure? Take a momentary break from the frosty goodness until the pain subsides, or sip warm water to help constrict the brain artery.

Chronic daily headaches If you have a headache at least 15 days per month for more than three months you're considered to have chronic daily headaches. These could be caused by overuse of pain medications (ie, rebound headaches), head injury, or in rare cases, meningitis or tumors. If there is no obvious cause, it could be because your body's pain signals are heightened or not working properly. These headaches may respond to antidepressants; beta blockers like atenolol, metoprolol, or propanolol (used to treat high blood pressure and migraines); anti-seizure medications like gabapentin or topiramate; pain relievers like naproxen (Aleve); and even Botox injections.

Menstrual headaches As if PMS wasn't bad enough, the sudden drop in estrogen right before your period can sometimes trigger migraines. These usually occur between three days before and two days after your period has started. Other women may have PMS-related headaches that aren't migraines. These arrive about six days or so before your period, at the same time as any moodiness, cramping, or other PMS symptoms. Use over-the-counter headache remedies; magnesium supplements may also help PMS-related head pain.

Weekend headaches Some people may experience headaches that mainly show up on the weekend. These are thought to be caused by oversleeping on weekend mornings, going to bed later at night, or caffeine withdrawal. Also, if your stress level is high all week, the weekend release may trigger a headache. Over-the-counter pain medications can be helpful, as can sticking to your regular sleep-wake schedule.

Emergency headaches Most headaches aren't an emergency, but there are a few symptoms that warrant rapid attention. One is a sudden onset headache that is quickly "explosive." Another is when a headache comes with a fever or extreme rise in blood pressure, or if it occurs after a blow to the head or exertion. Other problematic symptoms include vision or speech change, neck stiffness, dizziness, loss of sensation, or muscle weakness on one side of the body. Call 911 if you have these worrisome symptoms in addition to headache.

The above info on the 15 different kinds of headaches is from an article by CBSNEWS. I pared it down a bit in the interest of saving space. You can check out the article in its entirety HERE

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