What Is a Headache?

A headache is a specific pain that occurs in the upper neck region and head of the body. It can affect a localized area in the head, including the temples or the eyes, or it may affect the entire head. The pain may be dull or sharp. As well, it may come along with a variety of other symptoms like nausea or light sensitivity.

Headaches are extremely common, regardless of what the specifics are. Approximately 7 out of 10 Americans will experience one this year. Approximately 45 million people in the USA suffer from chronic headaches. Chronic headaches refer to headaches that return with some frequency. Symptoms can vary between individuals, although there are basically 3 main kinds: cluster headaches, migraine headaches, and tension headaches.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches feel similar to a band tightening around the head. This kind of headache was once thought to be associated with poor posture, and stress, resulting in the muscles of the neck and the head tightening up. It is hard to determine with certainty what the root cause of headaches is, since there are numerous things to take into consideration. Statistics show that women are more likely to develop tension headaches than men. The majority of adults between the ages of 20 to 50 will experience at least one tension headache during their life.

Migraine Headache

Usually, migraine headaches are throbbing and intense. Typically, they involve one side of the head, but for some people, the entire head can be affected. The cause for migraine headaches is still being researched, as is the case with tension headaches. Some schools of thought believe that these headaches are a result of an imbalance within the nervous system, specifically in the trigeminal nerve. This may result in inflammation and dilation being triggered within the blood vessels in the head.

This inflammation and dilation is responsible for the extreme pain and discomfort felt during a migraine. There are many times these headaches are associated with sound sensitivity, also known as phonophobia and light sensitivity or photophobia. Sometimes vomiting and nausea are a result.

Women are nearly 3 times more likely to have a migraine then men. There are different kinds of migraines. They may occur with or without an aura. An aura refers to a group of symptoms that occur prior to the headache starting.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches actually affect more men than women. They are much less common than other kinds of headaches. Cluster headaches possibly result from altered blood flow in the blood vessels of the head as well as the involvement of the trigeminal nerve. These are the 2 main theories regarding cluster headaches; however, the true cause is still unclear to the researchers. Typically, the pain is a sharp and stabbing sensation located behind the eyes. Usually the pain associated with a cluster headache lasts approximately 30 to 45 minutes and often crescendos toward the end of the episode.

Other Headaches

Sometimes headaches may be the result of a more serious medical issue. For example, a severe headache associated with fever, could possibly indicate an infection in the tissues surround the spinal cord and the brain or it may be the cause of meningitis. In the elderly population, a headache accompanied by tenderness of the scalp and the temple may be a sign of an inflammation of a major artery in the scalp, known as temporal arteritis.

In any regard, a headache associated with severe symptoms such as visual changes or vomiting or lasting more than 24 hours should definitely be reported to a healthcare professional so further evaluation can be completed.



Family Physical Therapy | Fairbanks, Alaska PT Office

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Phone: (907) 374-3000
Fax: (907) 451-7244

308 Old Steese Highway Fairbanks , AK 99701

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