Headaches affect all of us from time to time and are usually nothing to worry about. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they can be extremely unpleasant and can ruin your day when you are suffering from a particularly bad headache. Christmas is a special time for all of us, so don’t let a headache ruin your Christmas this year.
More than 10 million people in the UK get headaches regularly, making hem one of the most common health complaints. In many cases you can treat your headaches with painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and lifestyle changes like getting more rest and drinking enough fluids.
However, it’s a good idea to see your GP if your headaches aren’t relieved by these painkillers or if they are so painful or frequent that they affect your daily activities or are causing you to miss work.
What Are The Main Types Of Headaches?
Tension headaches are the most common or ‘everyday’ ones. They feel like a constant ache on both sides of your head, as though a tight band is stretched around it. They normally last between 30 minutes and several hours, but they won’t be severe enough to interfere with your usual activities.
The exact cause of tension headaches isn’t clear, but certain things have been known to trigger them. These triggers include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor posture
- Missing Meals
- Lack of exercise
- Bright sunlight
Tension type headaches are usually relieved by painkillers and lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes include relaxation techniques such as yoga, massage, exercise and applying a hot flannel to your forehead and neck.
Migraines are less common than other types of headaches. They are usually felt as a severe throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Some people have have other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light and noise.
Migraines are worse than tension headaches and may stop you carrying on as usual. They generally last at least a couple of hours and some people need to stay in bed for a couple of days. They can be treated with medicines bought from a pharmacy, but if they are bad you may need something stronger from your GP.
Cluster headaches are rare and are the least common form of headaches. They occur in less than 1 in 1000 people, and are more common amongst men than women. They happen in a cluster, for a month or two around the same time each year.
They are excruciatingly painful, causing intense pain around one eye, often with other symptoms. Pharmacy medications wont ease the symptoms, but a doctor can prescribe specific treatments to ease the pain. Cluster headaches cause increased sensitivity to alcohol and nicotine, so it is a good idea not to smoke or drink excessive alcohol if you suffer from cluster headaches.
Medication And Painkiller Headaches
Frequent can be cause by taking too many painkillers. This is called a medication overuse headache and usually happens if you take painkillers for 10 days or more. If the GP suspects that your headache is caused by persistent use of medication they may ask you to stop taking it. However, you shouldn’t stop your medication without first talking to your GP.
What Other Causes Of Headaches Are There?
There are a number of other causes of headaches.
- Drinking too much alcohol
- A head injury or concussion
- A cold or flu
- Problems affecting the chewing muscles and joints between your lower jaw and the base of your skull
- Sinusitis – inflammation of the lining of your sinuses
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Sleep apnoea
When Should You Seek Medical help?
You should go to your GP if you get headaches several times a week or they are severe. You should seek immediate medical advice for headaches that:
- Come on suddenly
- Are accompanied by a very stiff neck, fever, nausea, vomiting and confusion
- Follow an accident, especially if it involves a blow to the head
- Are accompanied by weakness, numbness, slurred speech or confusion
If you have any questions about this or any other health concern please call into any of our Newline Pharmacy branches and ask to speak to one of our pharmacists.
You can find out more information about headaches and migraines by clicking on the following external links.
- How many people in the UK get regular headaches?
- What is the most common type of headache?
- What are the symptoms?
- What causes them?
- What is a migraine?
- How should you treat tension headaches?
- What lifestyle changes will help?
- What other headaches are there?
- What other things can cause a headache?
- When should you seek help for a headache?
[expand title=”Quiz Answers”]
- 10 million
- Tension headaches
- A constant ache that affects both sides of your head
- Stress, poor posture, squinting, dehydration, missing meals, bright sunlight and noise
- A severe throbbing pain at the front or side of your head
- Usually with painkillers and lifestyle changes
- Yoga, massage, exercise, applying a hot flannel to your forehead and neck
- Migraines, cluster headaches sinus headaches and medication overuse headaches
- Alcohol, injury, cold, problems with chewing, sinusitis, carbon monoxide poisoning and sleep apnoea
- If your headache comes on suddenly, is accompanied by a very stiff neck, fever, nausea, vomiting, and confusion, follows an accident or is accompanied by weakness, numbness, slurred speech and confusion