Updated: Jun 2
If you're experiencing headaches and not sure why, you're not alone. Headaches are incredibly common, and nearly everyone will experience this kind of pain that makes it hard to concentrate, see clearly, and more.
But there's a lot between the different types of headaches and ailing headaches patients can experience. And while they often don't seem that serious at first, there may be some underlying causes of your pain that should be evaluated by a medical professional.
In this post, we want to help you understand the different causes of headaches, when to see a New York pain management specialist, and how you can manage and prevent headaches from occurring.
What kind of headache do you have?
Headaches can be one of the most frustrating and debilitating conditions to live with. They can come on suddenly and leave you unable to function for hours or even days. The most common type of headache is tension-type headache, which is usually described as a pressure-like pain in the head, often on both sides. It can be mild or severe, and it usually comes on as a dull ache that gets worse with routine activities like reading or driving.
Cluster headaches are rare but extremely painful episodes that strike suddenly and last up to three hours at a time, followed by long breaks without any symptoms before they reappear again. Cluster headaches occur about once every other month for several days, during which time sufferers cannot tolerate light or noise. It causes sharp stabbing pains in one eye that spread to other parts of the face.
There are also migraines, which are more intense and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. People who have migraines tend to experience them more frequently than those who don't - some people have one every week or two, while others may only get them a few times a year.
What can be causing your headaches?
Headaches are a common complaint. They can occur in any part of the head, but they usually affect one side, and they can range from mild to severe. Common causes of headaches include:
Stress and anxiety. Stress is a major contributor to headaches because it affects hormone levels in the body. When you feel stressed out, your body releases hormones that trigger pain signals in your brain.
Allergies. If you have seasonal allergies and are exposed to pollen or mold that triggers an allergic reaction, you may experience throbbing pain behind your eyes.
Dehydration. Your body needs water to function properly; if you don't drink enough fluid over time, you may develop headaches from dehydration.
Medications. Some medications can cause headaches as side effects or because they interact with other drugs you're taking (for example, aspirin, and ibuprofen).
Lack of sleep. It's a well-known fact that getting enough rest is important for overall health, but many people don't realize just how important it is for headache prevention. Insomnia can cause stress and anxiety, which can contribute to headaches.
Changes in blood flow to the brain. This can result from high blood pressure and diabetes. It also occurs during any time when your brain isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood (such as during sleep apnea).
Poor posture. Sitting all day with your shoulders hunched forward and your neck bent down can put pressure on the muscles in your upper back and neck, which can lead to headaches or pain.
When should you see a specialist?
If you're experiencing headaches frequently or if the pain is severe, it's time to see a specialist. Headaches that last longer than a few days or come with other symptoms can indicate underlying problems that need treatment to prevent serious complications.
Don't wait until the headache gets worse before seeking help. It's important to get an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional who specializes in treating headaches so they can provide appropriate treatment and advice on how to manage your condition.
See a pain specialist if you have headaches that:
you get when exposed to bright lights
you experience pain between the eyes and temples
are recent and frequent or different from usual
last longer than 30 minutes or are constant
worsen when you bend over or look up
are accompanied by nausea or vomiting
don't improve with over-the-counter pain relievers
start after an injury or after exercise
are accompanied by changes in vision, weakness, or numbness in the face or arm on one side of the body
are accompanied by a loss of balance or trouble walking, or visual disturbances
comes on suddenly, sometimes with a stiff neck
follows a pattern (that is, they occur at the same time of day, after drinking coffee, etc.)
How to manage your headache?
If you're experiencing headaches, you're not alone. Headaches are common, but whatever the cause, they can disrupt your life and make it difficult to do what you need to do. The good news is there are many different non-invasive and non-drug treatment options for managing your headaches. Some of the most common are:
Physical therapy — is often used to treat patients with tension headaches or neck and shoulder problems. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to do at home to strengthen the muscles that support your neck and head. It can also help you sleep better, improving your overall quality of life.
Acupuncture — a Chinese medicine treatment that involves putting very fine needles into specific points on the body to help relieve pain. Research suggests that acupuncture may be helpful in treating chronic tension-type headaches as well as migraines in adults.
Biofeedback — a type of therapy that helps you learn to control stress and muscle tension through a special monitor that reads your brain waves.
Chiropractic care — is a form of treatment that focuses on the relationship between the spine, nervous system, and health habits. It involves adjusting spinal bones in order to restore mobility in joints and release pressure on nerves in the spine.
Medical massage — a form of therapy that involves applying pressure to different parts of your body to help you relax and get rid of muscle tension that may be causing your headaches. It also improves blood circulation throughout the body, which helps reduce inflammation and swelling.
When you get headaches, it's important to realize that this isn't just a passing annoyance—the pain is actually your body's way of telling you that something isn't right. Therefore, you should listen to your body and take action against headaches before they take action against you and stop you from completing your daily tasks or enjoying yourself.
Most headaches are not serious and will resolve on their own within a few days. However, if your headaches persist and are caused by more serious conditions, then they should be evaluated by a medical professional. See a New York pain management specialist who can properly address your condition and provide a treatment plan to reduce or prevent future headaches.