How to manage consistant headaches

Headaches are an unfortunate, fact of life. There are many different kinds ranging in location, frequency, and severity. Sometimes, it can seem as though they come and go as they please without any rhythm or reason. Not only are they painful and annoying, but they can also be debilitating. For those suffering from repeated headache attacks, it can even create a feeling of constant fear – when is the next one going to start? It can damage family and social life, and employment. The long-term effect of coping with a chronic headache disorder can even contribute to depression and anxiety. 

So what causes a headache in the first place?

That’s a good question. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an easy answer. Since headaches vary so much, they are broken into two classes. According to the International Headache Society, a headache will fall into either a primary or secondary category. 

  • Primary headache: Means they are not caused by another condition.
  • Secondary headache: Means there is an underlying cause, condition or illness.

Medical News Today explains that primary headaches are stand-alone illnesses caused by problems with the structures in the head like blood vessels, muscles and/or nerves. A common headache that falls into this category is a migraine or tension headache. They also cited that secondary headaches are actually symptoms from another condition that the person may be suffering from. There are a lot of conditions, diseases or illnesses that might cause a secondary headache. Some examples are: 

  • Dehydration
  • Concussion
  • Brain tumor
  • Blood clots
  • Glaucoma
  • Cold or flu
  • Prescription, and non-prescription medication

Looking for relief from a headache is the most common step after realizing you are experiencing one. Just as there are many types of headaches, there are also many ways you can try and relieve the pain and discomfort you are feeling. Most people will reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatories like Tylenol or Advil. However, there are also a number of home remedies which might give you some temporary relief. For example, WebMD has compiled a list of treatments you can try, they consist of the following:

  • Cold treatment: using an ice pack to cool your face, neck or forehead.
  • Caffeine: When you get a headache, your blood vessels get bigger. However, caffeine has properties which narrow and restrict blood flow – which aids in pain relief. 
  • A dark, quiet room.
  • Exercise: When you exercise, your body creates endorphins, chemicals that fight pain.
  • Magnesium: It might not help during a headache attack, but studies have shown it can help to prevent them.
  • Getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Yoga: Research shows that regular yoga sessions cut the number of attacks you get and make them less intense when they do happen.
  • Know your “triggers”: Some headaches can be caused by the food you eat. 
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) or Butterbur supplements: Both of these supplements have been shown to help with migraines and headaches. 

However, if home remedies or traditional headache treatments still don’t work for you, and you are continuing to have frequent attacks, it may be time to talk to a physician that specializes in treating headaches and pain. Sherif Zaky, MD, MSc, Ph.D. and Thomas Felter, MD, with Firelands Physician Group, are compassionate and caring doctors who are available to discuss your treatment, and next steps further. Both Dr. Felter and Dr. Zaky offer cutting-edge treatment options including: 

  • Botox for migraines
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Sphenopalatine ganglion block
  • Trigeminal nerve block 
  • Occipital nerve block

Another advanced treatment option for chronic headaches is interventional pain management. This is a technique that uses injections or radiofrequency, to directly address the source of your pain.

For more information visit firelandsphysiciangroup.com/headache. Or talk to your primary care doctor about being referred to Dr. Zaky or Dr. Felter.