Hawaiian woman with headache

Headache Treatment

What causes headache pain?

If you want to know how to get rid of headaches or wish to know more about how to get rid of sinus headaches, you need to learn the cause for the pain and the related symptoms. The following information can assist you in finding out more about why headaches originate in the first place.

Before you learn the causes for headaches, you need to find out more about the severity associated with the pain. For example, any headache that results from an underlying condition, such as sinusitis, is considered secondary. Alternatively, a migraine headache, tension headache, or cluster headache are considered primary. A primary headache results from head pain and does not originate from another cause.

However, that does not mean a secondary headache may not be fatal or serious. It just means that the cause for the pain results from another source. Below are the main triggers for headache pain in adults or children.

Causes for Primary Headaches

1. Tension-Type Headache (TTH)

A TTH is the most common form of a primary headache. In fact, tension is the most common cause for headaches in the general population. The headache is the second most common disorder in the world. Little research has been performed about the condition, and therefore scientists can give few reasons for the underlying reasons. This type of headache is rarely severe and generally not throbbing. TTHs usually affect each side of the head, as well as the neck and shoulders.

Three main subtypes of the TTH exist:
  1. TTHs marked as infrequent – the headache occurs about once a month.
  2. Frequent TTHs – The headache develops one to 14 days per month.
  3.  Chronic TTHs – Headaches occur 15 days or more monthly.
    Some of the common headache medications that treat TTHs include tricyclic antidepressants. Patients also find relief through chiropractic manipulations and massage.

2. Migraine

This primary headaches involves recurrent attacks, and is marked by pulsing or throbbing pain. Usually, the pain is located on one side of the head. The pain is often accompanied by sensitivity, vomiting, or nausea. Triggering factors for this type of headache include emotional stress, visual stimuli, such as bright or glaring lights, wine, fasting, excessive physical exertion, sleep disorders, menstruation, or consuming too much caffeine.

3. Cluster Headache

Many headache patients often want to know what are cluster headaches? This type of headache is also referred to as a histamine headache. This rare headache affects about one in every 1,000 people. The pain may be genetic, as it runs in families, or it affects people who smoke. The condition may also be triggered by a strong smell, such as paint or perfume. Drinking alcohol is another cause for a cluster headache.

Causes for Secondary Headaches

1. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

An upper respiratory tract infection commonly results in headache pain. Children, who experience headache pain, often do so because they are experiencing an upper respiratory tract infection. Upper respiratory tract infections are the most common underlying cause for acute headache pain. The headache is often associated with a sore throat or fever.

Upper respiratory tract infections are further separated into viral infections, sinusitis, and streptococcal pharyngitis. A sinus headache is often confused with a migraine, as sinusitis is often an uncommon cause for recurring headaches.

2. Encephalitis and Meningitis

Encephalitis, which is an infection of the brain, is usually caused by a viral infection. It is characterized by confusion, disorientation, and headache pain. Meningitis is marked by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. The inflammation infects the upper airways and ultimately enter the brain, leading to headache pain.

3. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH)

This condition may result from a rupture aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation, or an injury to the head. The life-threatening condition leads to bleeding in the space between the brain and skull – an area known as the subarachnoid space.

4. Stroke

When the blood flow is interrupted, a stroke occurs. If the blood does not circulate to the brain, brain cells die, leading to permanent brain damage. Strokes are described as either ischemic or hemorrhagic. During an ischemic stroke, a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain while a hemorrhagic stroke involves bleeding into the brain’s tissue, usually from a burst vessel.

Symptoms of headaches

Headache symptoms depend on the type of headache. For example, the symptoms of a cluster headache are different than the symptoms of a migraine. Therefore symptoms are defined from the type of headache the patient experiences. Below are general symptoms for the more common headache conditions.

Migraine Symptoms

  • Sensitivity to noise, odors, or light
  • Blurred vision
  • A throbbing pain the begins on one side of the head
  • Nausea
  • Visual disturbances, such as flickering light points
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach upset
  • Sensations of feeling too warm or cold
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Sinus Headache Symptoms

  • A deep pain in the area of the forehead, cheekbones, or at the bridge of the nose.
  • Pain that worsens when making a sudden movement, or when straining.
  • Pain and sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, fever, facial swelling, or a stopped-up feeling in the ears.

Tension Headache Symptoms

  • A dull steady pain, which feels like a band tightening around the head.
  • If the headache is episodic (occurs less than 15 days per month), the pain affects the side, top, or front of the head and may feel mild to moderate. The pain usually is noticeable in the mid-part of the day, and may last from 30 minutes to as many as several days.
  •  If the headache is chronic (occurs over 15 days each month), the pain varies in intensity throughout the day, but is almost always noticeable. The pain comes and go over time.

Other symptoms of note include the following:

  • A feeling of chronic fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Problems with focusing
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Mild sensitivity to noise or light
  • General muscle aches

Symptoms Of A Cluster Headache

  • An intense pain on one side of the head, which throbs or burns.
  • Pain behind or around one eye. The pain does not switch to the other side.
  • The pain usually lasts about 30 to 90 minutes, but in some cases, may last as long as three hours.
  • The pain usually occurs at the same time each day. It may awaken a person while he or she is sleeping.

You should always call 911 if your headache is sudden and severe. If a headache is accompanied by double version, slurred speech, or difficulty swallowing, it may be a sign that you are having a stroke. Also, a doctor should be called if you are experiencing a stiff neck or have painful and recurring headaches.

Treatment Options for Headaches

1. Tension Headaches – Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin get rid of the inflammation associated with tension headaches. However, taking too many pills can lead to rebound headaches, making it difficult to treat the headaches properly. You may also consider massage therapy or chiropractic care.

2. Migraines – One drug class, called triptans, usually is recommended for treating migraines. This class may include rizatriptan (Maxalt) eletriptan (Relpax), or zolmitriptan (Zomig). Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also ward off the first signs of a migraine attack. Massage therapy can also prevent the onset of migraine pain.

3. Cluster Headaches – A simple pain reliever is not enough to get rid of this type of headache pain. Preventative medications usually work the best at the first indicator of cluster headache pain. Some of the medicines used include a blood pressure medication, such as verapamil, or a temporary treatment course of the steroid, prednisone. Massage therapy is another recommended treatment.

4. Sinus Headaches – Antibiotics and decongestants often help if your pain results from a bacterial infection.