Headache: what exactly does yours mean and how to deal with it

Headache has been tormenting a person since he was expelled from paradise, but scientists still cannot understand what mechanisms trigger it in our body. However, they still managed to find out something. During an attack, it is not the brain itself that hurts, as it sometimes seems to us, but the three shells in which it is wrapped. They are dotted with a network of nerve endings and small vessels, which in turn abound with pain receptors that can cause pain. When, for various reasons, including under the influence of the hormone serotonin, the vessels sharply narrow or expand for a long time, our head begins to «crack» or «split». But these are not the only conclusions of medicine over the past millennia.

Scientists have learned to relieve pain quite effectively, and any, not just headache, with the help of analgesics. First they identified its founders. It turned out that pain and inflammation, which often go in pairs, are caused by prostaglandins − special biologically active substances formed in the body due to the enzyme cyclooxygenase. Having learned to block the action of cyclooxygenase, they managed to stop the production of prostaglandins. That is why analgesics relieve pain in the knee, back, and ear and would be removed in the tail if we had one.
It is quite simple to determine whether you need a doctor’s help or not. Ask yourself if headaches bother you. If you are thinking, the visit can be postponed. If you said «yes» without delay, you need the help of a specialist.

However, in the case of headaches, these drugs do not always help, but all because there are about 160 varieties of it in medicine. Besides, not everyone needs analgesics, because sometimes gymnastics or even the power of thought alone is enough. Treatment and an effective drug should be selected by a specialist after a detailed examination. It is necessary to take a blood test, do an ultrasound of blood vessels, undergo an examination by an ophthalmologist and show yourself to several other specialists, because otherwise it will not be possible to make an accurate diagnosis.

Headaches are primary and secondary. The primary ones are recognized as an independent disease, the secondary ones are only a symptom of another ailment, sometimes serious (aneurysms, brain tumors, diabetes mellitus). The consolation is that 95% of people have primary headaches and only 5% have secondary ones. Among the primary pains, tension headache takes the first place, migraine is in second place, bundle headaches are in third place. Now the details.

Wedge by wedge
Among secondary headaches, there is often an abusive headache (from the English abuse — «abuse»), which is caused by uncontrolled daily or almost daily intake of analgesics. No treatment helps in this case, and the only way to solve the problem is to stop taking these drugs. It can be difficult to do this, because analgesics can cause addiction similar to narcotic or alcoholic. Besides, the abusive pain is not serious at all.

Headache: what exactly does yours mean and how to deal with it

The head is in a vise
Tension headache is almost the most frequent guest in our heads. According to various sources, doctors make such a diagnosis in 30-70% of cases, and this is not surprising. As you can guess from the name, tension causes this pain, both physical and psychological. The picture is familiar to everyone: once we sleep for a few hours in an uncomfortable position or quarrel with the boss, the head immediately makes itself felt. It would seem that the situations are different, but the principle of operation is the same. «In both cases, there is muscle tension, which then transforms into pain,» explains the doctor at the A.M. Vane Headache Clinic. — In an uncomfortable position, the muscles of the face and neck-collar zone are strained. The same thing happens when we are stressed.»

Acute episodic pain often has a signaling function and indicates physical malaise. Chronic pain, as a rule, reports mental distress, for example, the presence of an unresolved psychological problem.

Remember yourself at the moment of the quarrel: a distorted face, clenched teeth, sometimes clenched fists — and everything will become clear to you. Such pain usually passes quickly, without causing great inconvenience, and if it happens 1 time a month or less, it is considered episodic. If seizures occur from 1 to 15 times a month, doctors talk about frequent tension headaches. She’s already capable of disrupting our plans. And finally, tension headache is chronic when the head hurts every day. «Against the background of a prolonged stressful situation or after some tragedy, a person may develop neuroses or depression,» comments the doctor, a neurologist from the Clinic of Cybernetic Medicine. «These conditions are accompanied by continuous muscle tension, so it becomes harder to relax them, and then you can’t do without the help of doctors.»

Characteristic symptoms: pressing pains of moderate intensity, more often covering the entire upper part of the head − temples, forehead, nape. Sometimes there is a feeling that a tight helmet or an iron hoop is worn on the top of the head, or it has been squeezed like a vice. Nevertheless, during an attack, a person can continue what he started: work, read or talk on the phone. If you walk for half an hour in the fresh air or do a few physical exercises, the pain usually recedes.

Headache: what exactly does yours mean and how to deal with it

Episodic tension headache is most often treated without medication. Gymnastics, massage, manual therapy, acupuncture, girudotherapy and other techniques relax the muscles well and lift the mood. An integrated approach helps best when the course of treatment includes several wellness procedures at once. They should be prescribed by a doctor, because even massage has contraindications. Perhaps the only tool that is considered absolutely harmless is the biofeedback method. During the session of this kind of autogenic training, sensors are installed on certain areas of the patient’s body, which are then connected to a computer. They register muscle tension, respiratory rate and pulse rate, temperature. Then, under the guidance of a doctor, the patient learns to change these parameters with just the power of thought, thus reducing blood pressure and relieving some types of headache. However, this method does not always help with migraines. «Of course, you can also use analgesics, but no more than 2 times a week,» Elena Filatova warns. – You need to drink those drugs that help, while keeping in mind the contraindications.»

Only antidepressants relieve chronic tension headaches. «Special analgesic systems are responsible for relieving pain in our body,− explains the doctor. — The pain becomes chronic, in particular, because these systems begin to cope poorly with their task. Antidepressants are designed to resuscitate them.» If the cause was depression, these drugs perform their direct function. «In this case, they struggle with the reaction of our body to constant stress, that is, depression,» adds she.

Headache: what exactly does yours mean and how to deal with it

My head is splitting
Migraine affects about 15% of people worldwide, whose average age is from 20 to 50 years. This vascular disease is considered to be hereditary and is more often transmitted through the maternal line. The weaker sex falls victim to it 3-4 times more often than the stronger: every 4-5 woman is familiar with migraines.

The exact mechanism of migraine is still unknown. However, scientists have found out that the course of the disease is influenced by female sex hormones estrogens. It is no coincidence that in girls, the first attacks usually appear with the onset of menstruation, and with menopause, the pain either completely disappears or noticeably weakens. There is even a separate form of migraine (true menstrual migraine), which occurs strictly once a month 1-2 days before the onset of «critical days» due to a sharp drop in estrogen levels at the beginning of the menstrual cycle.

If mom suffers from migraine, the baby’s chances of adopting the disease reach 75%, if dad – 25%, and if both parents – all 90%.

Translated from ancient Greek, the word «migraine» means «half of the head», because most often during an attack a person really hurts one side of the head, left or right, although it happens in a different way. At the same time, pulsation of the carotid artery is often felt in the temple (or temples). The attack is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Any physical activity and even the slightest movement of the head increases the pain, as well as a loud sound, bright or flickering light, a sharp smell. During an attack, many people have a desire to retire to a quiet dark room and fall asleep as soon as possible. Migraine pain is quite severe and in most cases puts the sufferer to bed.

In addition to strong sounds, smells and light, an attack can provoke stress, hunger, lack of sleep, a long stay in front of a computer or TV screen and hormonal drugs, including oral contraceptives. But this is an incomplete and optional list. So, some people develop a «weekend migraine» due to oversleeping. Dreaming of getting enough sleep for the whole week, they get up on Saturday later than usual, and then they suffer from the most terrible headaches until Monday. «That is why we advise all migraine sufferers to go to bed and get up at the same time, even on vacation,» says the doctor.

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