A headache can interfere with work, family and your favorite activities. Symptoms can range from a mild throbbing nuisance or an intense pain that sends you straight to bed. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse and mom of three, shares her tips for managing your headache to help you find relief.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF HEADACHES?
Nurse Rose: Many people are surprised to learn that there is more than one type of headache. In fact, there are nearly 150 different types of headache. These are often classified by their symptoms – including where the pain is felt or any other symptoms that accompany headache pain – frequency and location of the pain.
The most common headaches are:
- Tension headaches – People with a tension headache often complain about a mild or moderate pressure around the forehead or even the back of the head and neck. Many say it feels like a rubber band or clamp around the head.
- Migraine headaches – Migraines can range in intensity and are generally painful and recurring. Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound often accompany migraines.
- Cluster headaches – These headaches are short but very painful headaches that occur frequently every day for weeks or months.
- Chronic daily headaches – This type of headache describes a headache that affects individuals more days than not or at least 15 days each month.
- Sinus headaches – We all know the pain and pressure that comes with a sinus headache. Pain felt under the eyes or in the middle of the forehead is typically caused by a sinus infection, cold or seasonal allergy attack.
HOW CAN YOU FIND RELIEF FROM A HEADACHE?
Nurse Rose: There are many effective ways to ease headache pain, but it’s important to keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for someone else. The most effective headache remedies include:
- Use a cold pack or washcloth for 15 minutes. A cold shower can sometimes help, too.
- Try a heating pad along the back of your neck or head.
- Dim the lights, including the lights on your computer or phone.
- Drink caffeine – but be careful not to overdo it.
- Relax with gentle stretching, deep breaths and meditation.
- Ease tension with a quick massage on your neck and temples.
- Take over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
You may not be able to avoid every headache, but you can reduce the frequency of headaches. Start by keeping a record of when you have a headache and any possible triggers – including food, drink, sleep, stress, time of day, exercise and any other notes that may help you find a common cause for your headache.
Once you understand what type of headache you’re experiencing and what your triggers may be, you can work to prevent future headaches:
- Avoid triggers, which may include alcohol, strong smells, bright lights and loud sounds.
- Quit smoking.
- Get enough sleep.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat healthy.
- Manage stress.