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Complementary Therapists > Medical Conditions > Headache


What are Headaches?

Headache is a non-specific term used to describe pain in the head or face area of the skull. Contrary to popular perception the headache is not felt in the brain as this organ does not have pain receptors. Headaches actually manifest themselves in the blood vessels, muscles and skin that travel from the brain to the head and face. There are a number of types of headaches, including tension headaches, cluster headaches and migraine. Each type of headache has different causes, different symptoms, and different treatments.

What Causes headaches?

Causes of Tension Headaches

It is believed that tension headaches are caused by stress-related muscle tension in the neck and head. It is theorised that tension headache is a s result of a malfunctioning pain filter which is located in the brain stem. It is thought that the brain misinterprets information, for example from the temporal muscle and / or other muscles, and the brain interprets this signal as pain.

Causes of Cluster Headaches

The precise causes of cluster headaches are not known although once again many theories exist. It is thought that they are caused by complex, interacting abnormalities in the blood vessels, nerves, and chemicals in the head, brain, and face.

A number of experts believe that cluster headache and migraine headache share a common source that originates in the trigeminal nerve. This is the nerve that carries sensation about the head, brain, and face, and terminates with the blood vessels surrounding the brain. Other medical experts propose that cluster headache pain comes from within the deep vascular channels in the head. Cluster headaches are much less common than tension headaches or migraines and most sufferers are male.

Causes of Migraine

The causes of migraine and not known however many theories abound including the consumption of chocolate. The most likely cause of migraine headaches is believed to be unusual functioning of certain elements of nerve cells, such as particular ion channels and receptors. These abnormalities affect how the brain processes normal information such as pain, light and sound. Most people that are prone to migraine headaches will have their first attack before 30 years of age.

Other Causes of Pain in the Head Area

Other known causes of head aches includes hypertension or high blood pressure, eye problems, sinus-related issues, brain tumours, and various infections.

Headache Symptoms

Symptoms of Tension Headaches

A dull ache that is sometimes described as a vice-like pressure of the head, sometimes accompanied by a stiff and / or a sore neck. The pain is usually over the eyes or towards the back of the head and may be somewhat intermittent. The pain is not usually severe but can be very wearing.

Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Migraine pain can range from mild to quite severe. A pulsing or throbbing pain located on one side of the head and may last from hours to a number of days. Symptoms may worsen in bright light, excessive noise, or when moving around. Many migraine sufferers find that lying down in an darkened room can alleviate the pain to an extent. People with migraine regularly suffer from nausea and may actually vomit. The onset of a migraine attack may be preceded by and visual changes, or aura, caused by a tightening of blood vessels reducing the supply of blood to the brain

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches

The symptoms of cluster headaches are often described as being knife-like pain usually confined to one side of the skull often in the eye area. Bouts of cluster headache pain usually dissipates within an hour but may re-occur within the same day or return at the same time on a number of successive days. Cluster headache sufferers sometimes that the pain can be so bad that it wakes them during their night sleep. Symptoms may also include a runny or stuffed nose, tears, eye irritation and indeed a drooped eyelid.

How to Prevent Headaches?

People that are prone to regular bouts of bad headaches or migraines should maintain a routine whereby they go to bed at the same time most nights. A full night's restful sleep, for around eight hours, is a basis for headache avoidance.

Eat at regular intervals - avoid long periods without food - and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Keep track of your eating habits and the type of foods that may trigger bouts of headache. This is particularly relevant for migraine sufferers as there appears to be a strong correlation between the consumption of foods such as coffee, cheese and pepperoni and migraine attacks.

Foods that trigger headaches should be avoided. Keep the consumption of caffeine and alcohol to a minimum. Avoid stress and stressful situations. Contact lens wearers should not wear lenses throughout the day.

How to Cure Headaches

Obviously it is best to avoid the headache in the first place by adopting the prevention methods above however once the headache has arrived there is a huge range of over-the-counter painkillers available on the market. Trial and error will reveal which product is best for each individual. The use of such products is perfectly acceptable for people that suffer from occasional bouts of headache however long term and repeated use is not.

If you are a regular sufferer of headaches and have not been able to achieve long term relief there are a range of complementary and alternative treatments Reiki, Kinesiology, CranioSacral, and Aromatherapy available. If you have tried conventional methods without finding a headache cure there are a number of complementary therapists listed on this site that may have the solution to your pain difficulties.


The material and information contained on this site is for educational purposes only. This information should not be interpreted as any form of medical advice. If you are experiencing any medical or health difficulties please consult with your doctor.

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