Headache: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

What is a Headache?

Headaches are deep or superficial pain that emerges from your head or the upper neck of your body. It is one of the most common afflictions in life, with up to 90 percent of people reporting symptoms at some point in their lives. It can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age and race. Reports claim that at least 7 in 10 people have at the minimum one headache each year. (x)

Most headaches, other than being painful and bothersome, do not signify anything serious. However, some are signals of more serious health conditions and require immediate medical attention. Estimates show that 45 million Americans have severe headaches that make it difficult to perform routine daily activities. (x)

Headaches can occur in different parts of the head — on either side or in just one location of the face or skull. They can also involve the whole head. The pain can be constant, mild, intense, sharp, throbbing or a dull ache. Allergies (sinuses), stress, fatigue, smoking, nutritional deficiencies and alcohol or drugs often trigger headaches. They can also cause high blood pressure and migraines. Some associate headaches with symptoms like vomiting and nausea, watery eyes and nasal congestion. (x)

Some remedies that can relieve headaches include posture correction, herbs, vitamins and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Avoiding OTC pain relievers is challenging but will prove fruitful by using other methods to handle the health concern permanently.

Types of Headaches

There are many ways to define a headache. The International Headache Society (HIS) categorizes them as primary, where an underlying condition does not cause them, or secondary, when an underlying condition exists.

Primary headaches mainly result from over-activity or issues with structures in the head that are pain sensitive. They include nerves of the head and neck, muscles and blood vessels. The common primary headaches are tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches.

Secondary headaches occur when a wide range of different factors stimulate the pain-sensitive nerves in the head. These factors include blood clots, brain tumors, dehydration, concussion, alcohol-induced hangovers, stroke and overuse of pain medication caused by rebound headaches. They include:

  1. Tension Headache

Tension headaches (or stress headaches) are most common among teenagers and adults. They occur in three of every four adults. (x) They also tend to occur more in women than in men.

Tension headaches cause mild to moderate pain, and they occur infrequently. They typically last for 30 minutes to several hours; however, they can also span over several days in some cases, and they can be either episodic or chronic. 

You can describe the pain as constricting, pressing or tight pain on both sides of the head. Research proves that tension headaches often relate to poor posture, anxiety, eye strain and stress. (x) Some treat with painkillers like paracetamol and acetaminophen, hard on your liver. A short nap, warm shower or light snack can also help. (x) Dehydration is another cause, which is getting enough water to relieve headaches. 

  1. Migraines

These are the second-most common type of primary headaches after tension headaches. They occur less than tension headaches but tend to be more severe. (x) Some describe migraines as throbbing and pounding pain, usually on one side of the head. They affect both children and adults.

Migraines last from 4 hours to 3 days and can occur one or more times a month. Other symptoms accompanying the pain are nausea, blurry vision, lightheadedness, loss of appetite and sensitivity to light. Children’s migraines have symptoms like vomiting. Fatigue, oversleeping or lack of sleep, emotional stress and sensory triggers such as loud noises and strong smells trigger migraines. 

Some treat with OTC medication, but you may require a stronger prescription medication. (x) Try to remedy it naturally because these medications are addictive and harmful to your body. The severity of a migraine can prevent people from performing their normal daily activities. WHO ranks it as the sixth-highest cause of time lost worldwide because of its debilitating effects. (x)

  1. Cluster Headaches

These are the least common but most severe headaches. They occur almost exclusively in males, as they occur five times more in men than in women. Cluster headaches usually cause intense, sharp or burning pain and have a pattern of occurring in ‘clusters’ almost at the same time of the day for weeks. Each attack can last for 15 minutes to 3 hours. They can disappear completely, even for years, only to occur later. Some describe them as deep, excruciating and constant, always located on one side of the head, especially around one eye. The pain includes other symptoms, such as a runny or blocked nose and watery eyes.

Cluster headaches can occur in anyone but are most common in middle-aged men with a history of smoking. They are common in men in their late 20s but can also affect women and children. Pharmacy medications can treat cluster headaches symptoms as a temporary solution. But other natural treatments can prevent future occurrences or stop smoking. (x)

  1. Rebound Headaches

These types of headaches result from the discontinuation of certain medications. A person will most likely suffer from rebound headaches if they take medicines like acetaminophen, ergotamine and painkillers, such as codeine and Tylenol. The reason is these drugs only treat the symptoms, not the cause. 

  1. Sex Headaches

Sexual intercourse can trigger headaches. Sexual activity that leads to orgasm often initiates headaches. Men may experience dull pain that intensifies as sexual excitement rises or severe attacks known as orgasmic headaches. You can prevent them by making sure that your body is hydrated. Some take an NSAID an hour before intercourse, but these are very hard on your body. It’s best to avoid them altogether. (x)

Symptoms of a Headache

Some of the most common symptoms include:

Causes of a Headache

A combination of pain-sensitive muscles in the head, nerve signals originating from the blood vessels, and your spine being out of alignment. Common triggers are:

  1. Hormone Imbalance

Fluctuating hormone levels in women illustrate common causes of menstrual migraines and chronic headaches. These hormonal changes mainly occur during pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. Oral contraceptives can also cause them. Estrogen, a chemical in the brain that affects the sensation of pain, is the principal contributor to these headaches. (x)

  1. Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine is probably the world’s most consumed psychoactive (affecting the mind) substance. It acts as a nervous system stimulant that boosts alertness while reducing fatigue. Eliminating caffeine from the diet can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches 12-24 hours after stopping it. Caffeine makes blood vessels in the brain constrict, which lowers blood flow. When a person stops taking caffeine, the blood vessels open up and allow increased blood flow to the brain. This abrupt change in blood flow leads to painful withdrawal headaches that vary in severity as your body tries to adapt to an increase in blood. When consumed on its own, caffeine helps to enhance the power of painkillers and reduce pain. (x)

  1. Codeine

Drugs like codeine contain opioids and can worsen headaches. Taking too much pain medicine can result in a condition known as Medication overuse headache (MOH). When the dose starts wearing off, the pain returns, making people take more. This overuse makes the medication stop relieving the pain and eventually causing headaches. (x)

  1. High Blood Pressure

Hypersensitive crisis (blood pressure reading 180/120 mm HG) cases can cause headaches. (x) Since it’s a medical emergency, seeking help from qualified medical personnel is imperative.

  1. Eye Strain or Back Strain

Eye strain occurs when the eyes become tired from intense use, such as staring at a computer screen. Eye strain also results from inadequate or excessive lighting. It causes a mild but not pounding headache.

  1. Allergies

Sinus and migraine headaches can stem from allergies. Exposure to allergens triggers the immune system to release certain chemicals. These can cause inflammation in the body, which then triggers migraines. Histamine produced by the body can cause vasodilation, which may result in a headache. Vasodilation is the widening or dilation of blood vessels, causing increased blood flow and decreasing blood pressure. (x

  1. Stress

Emotional stress is a common cause of migraines. Daily stress, such as workplace pressures, can cause chronic tension headaches. During stressful situations, your body’s endocrine system releases certain chemicals to combat the events. These chemicals cause vascular (blood flow) changes, which can cause pain. Emotions associated with stress, such as fatigue, anxiety and worry, can lead to dilated blood vessels and increased muscle tension, which worsens migraines. (x)

Headaches Causes

Headache Treatment

The most common forms of headache treatments are rest and pain relief medications. Since most are not indicators of severe medical conditions, over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin treat the health concern. Note this is not handling the overall cause, only the symptoms. Many alternative practitioners recommend lifestyle changes for a more positive approach to your health. (x)

Alternative treatments include hypnosis, acupuncture, meditation, chiropractic care, Egoscue method and change of lifestyle. 

Supplements for Headaches

Research proves that supplements help your body. Visit with your healthcare provider and discuss your interest in starting any new supplement for your headaches. Some include:  

  1. Butterbur Extract Powder

According to the National Institute of Health, extract from butterbur shrub may lower the frequency at which migraines happen. (x) Take 150 mg of butterbur extract powder daily with plenty of water or as directed by a physician. You can take extract powder for 3-4 months before gradually lowering the dose. If symptoms reappear after reducing the dosage, increase progressively again. A milligram scale is necessary for accurate measuring.

  1. Magnesium

Many consider this one of the best and most successful remedies for headaches. Patients with severe migraines receive magnesium to reduce the severity of their headaches. Too much consumption of magnesium can cause diarrhea, but lowering the dose helps to avert this problem. Dietary sources of magnesium are vegetables like broccoli, whole grains, nuts and beans.

  1. Peppermint Oil and Lavender Oil

According to research, peppermint oil increases blood flow on the forehead and also soothes muscle contractions. It may also lower headache sensitivity in tandem with ethanol (x). 

As a dietary supplement, take 700 mg (around 1/3 tsp) of peppermint extract powder once or twice daily or as directed by a physician. Studies indicate that lavender oil is an effective and safe treatment for migraines. (x) Rub it on your forehead and back of the neck for a soothing effect.

  1. Omega-3 Fish Oils

A study done by the University of Cincinnati showed a decreased frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Omega-3 fish oils are present in high concentrations in fish like herring, trout, salmon and mackerel. (x)

  1. Feverfew

This herb can help lower the occurrence of migraines. However, more scientific research is necessary to determine its health benefits. One study has shown that feverfew can effectively prevent migraine headaches and does not have any significant side effects. (x) As a dietary supplement, take 500 mg (scant 1/4 tsp) of feverfew extract powder daily or as directed by a physician.

  1. Melatonin

Some suggest that you may take melatonin powder in a single serving size between 1 mg and 3 mg before bedtime.

  1. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin is famous for having headache-reducing components. As a dietary supplement, take 50 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) powder once or twice daily or as directed by a physician. A milligram scale is ideal for accurate results.

Where to Buy Supplements for Headaches?

You can purchase these supplements for headaches at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of pure dietary supplements. 

BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other food and supplement brands to make their products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.

Are you interested in trying any of these powders or supplements mentioned in this article as a possible solution to helping you with headaches? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.

How to Prevent a Headache

Some tried and trustworthy solutions for preventing headaches:: 

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding excessive caffeine consumption
  • Avoiding diet-related triggers
  • Undertaking manual therapies like massage and chiropractic
  • Regular exercise
  • Staying hydrated
  • Moving around and stretching
  • Getting enough rest

These suggestions simply show that good health practices are better headache prevention practices. (x)

The Bottom Line

There are four primary forms of headaches — migraine, cluster, tension and sinus. These headaches have a wide array of causes, including hormone imbalance, allergies, illnesses, aspartame and eye, neck and back strain. 

Some remedies that you can use to control and treat headaches include exercising, taking pain relievers, having adequate rest and sleep, and staying hydrated. Plus, you can also use supplements like feverfew, omega-3 fish oils, melatonin, peppermint oil and lavender oil. You might even want to consider chiropractic treatment to keep your upper and lower spine in alignment.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author: BulkSupplements Staff