Treating tension headaches or managing migraines: How to cope with painful headaches
Tension headaches form at the front of the forehead or at the back of the skull and can move into the region behind the eyes. Many sufferers of tension headaches describe the pain as a build up of pressure that feels like a tight rubber band has been wrapped around their head. Migraines are generally more severe; they are far more debilitating and can cause the victim to be immobile for an entire day.
Headaches Australia suggests that unlike a tension headache, a migraine can show preemptive symptoms such as blurred vision and light nausea. This initial stage is known as an aura and effects 20-30% of migraine sufferers. Once a migraine takes hold it is common to develop extreme sensitivity to light, noise and movement requiring the sufferer to remain in bed in a darkened room.
It’s common for a migraine to go through five stages; early warning, aura, headache, resolution and recovery. The early warning and aura stages offer the greatest chance of preventative measures being successful, before the headache sets in. During the recovery stage, sufferers typically feel exhausted and need time to rest and recuperate from the experience.
General practitioner Dr Ginni Mansberg says it is important for people to understand the symptoms of tension headaches and migraines so they can treat it in the right way.
Dr Mansberg believes the cause of the headache is a significant calling sign of whether it is a tension headache or a migraine, “a tension headache is usually caused by dehydration, stress, lack of sleep or standard illness. A migraine has slightly more complex causes such as certain foods, hormones and medications.”
Keeping a headache diary is a great way to recognise where your headache is coming from and the factors that may have caused it. This is particularly important when dealing with the treatment process.
With different causes and symptoms, treating a tension headache or a migraine can require different approaches. For a tension headache, water, fresh air and mild painkillers can be enough to get you back on your feet. Migraines can be trickier to manage and usually require rest, a darkened room and strong painkillers.
While headaches affect over seven million Australians each year, an understanding of the type of headache and the treatments available can stop them from impacting your way of life.