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For anyone who has ever had a serious headache, finding the optimal headache relief is a high priority. Key to finding the best headache relief are two things: distinguishing the type of headache and the measures that work for that type, and discovering which of those options is best suited for you.
Nearly 90 percent of headaches are primary headaches, of which there are three types: cluster headaches, migraines, and tension headaches. Cluster headaches describes a closely spaced group of headaches within the period of several weeks to months, and which may recur on a seasonal basis. They are most common in adult men prior to middle age, with pain often centered around one eye and usually only on one side of one’s head.
The aim in treating cluster headaches may be to reduce immediate pain and break the cluster cycle with a short treatment regimen of medication, or preventive, prophylactic treatment that is taken every day. Because lying down can make cluster headaches worse, people may move or pace to help with headache relief.
Migraines are headaches that can occur with or without an aura and may also involve nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Not every migraine includes a headache. Most of the 30,000,000 migraine sufferers in the US are women.
Sometimes migraines can be avoided by dietary restrictions in which foods that are known to be associated with migraines are avoided. If this does not work, migraines may be treated on a case-by-case basis with an abortive treatment that alleviates symptoms and shortens the headache. Going to a darkened, quiet room and lying down may also assist with headache relief. Migraines may also be treated on a preventive basis with prophylactic treatment. Which approach is taken will depend on the frequency and severity of the migraines and the effectiveness of abortive treatments.
Most chronic or frequent headache sufferers are those who experience tension headaches, the most common form of primary headache. Tension headaches may be successfully prevented by lifestyle changes and treatments that aim at reducing stress or managing stress, such as massage or psychotherapy. When they do develop, they can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as acetaminophen and NSAIDS like aspirin and ibuprofen.
When a headache is secondary, it is a symptom of some other condition that is often serious and requires immediate medical treatment. It may signal cerebrovascular disease, a tumor, an infection, result from trauma to the head, or result from a metabolic disorder. In this case, headache relief will only come with treatment of the underlying cause.
I think it's important to discover the source of a headache to determine what the best headache pain relief looks like. Aspirin might help a tension headache, for example, but not do much at all for a sinus headache. If I have a really bad cluster headache, I have to take a stronger NSAID like sodium naproxen if I'm out of prescription medication.
If I know my headache is caused by tension or stress, I find that a cold compress or blue ice pack on my forehead will do the trick.
Here in the South, many people get headache relief through the use of "headache powders". These powders are essentially ground-up analgesics like aspirin. They are packaged in folded sheets of waxed paper, and users pour the powder directly into their mouths, with or without liquids. The belief is that the headache powders are digested faster in the stomach, so the medication reaches the bloodstream sooner. A traditional painkiller in pill form could take much longer to become effective.
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