Chronic Headaches

According to the American Council on Headache Education, 90 percent of men and 95 percent of women experienced a headache in the past year.

People who have fibromyalgia may be more vulnerable to headaches than the average person. Approximately 50 percent of people with fibromyalgia suffer from recurrent migraine or tension headaches. Chronic headaches of any kind can be disruptive and interfere with daily activities.

Migraine Headaches

Nearly 30 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches, the vast majority of them women. Migraine headaches are a specific type of headache, characterized by intense pain that often occurs on one side of the head and that gets worse with ordinary activities.

In the early and later phases of a migraine attack, you may experience muscle tenderness, fatigue, and mood changes. You may also feel nauseous and even vomit. The severity of a migraine and what triggers it varies a great deal. Migraines can last four to 72 hours or more.

Some migraine attacks may be accompanied by what experts call an aura, which is an abnormal sensory experience. During an aura, you may see zigzag lines, shimmering lights, or bright flashes of lights. An aura may also be accompanied by numbness and tingling in the arm, and you may need to lie down in a dark place until it passes.

Thirteen million U.S. women suffer from menstrual migraines, which can last longer and recur more often than regular migraine headaches. Some women have pure menstrual migraines that occur during their period. Others suffer from menstrual-related migraines, which can occur any time of the month. No one knows what causes menstrual migraines, but experts suspect that the drop in estrogen levels during menstruation may be the cause. Birth control pills are also associated with menstrual migraines because they cause changes in estrogen levels.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches, which are more common than migraines, afflict approximately 78 percent of all adults. They are generally the result of tight muscles in the neck or shoulders and are commonly associated with myofascial trigger points.

Alert

It's tempting to reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever when your head is pounding. But overusing these remedies can cause a rebound effect that only triggers more headaches. The rebound effect is most common in people who are susceptible to headaches and who take pain relievers more than two days a week for weeks at a time. So try to minimize your use of these analgesics if at all possible.

In the throes of a tension headache, you might feel as if you have a band tightening around your neck or head. You may feel a pressing sensation on both sides of the head, and it may involve the temples, the back of the head, and/or the neck. Routine activities don't worsen the pain, and you are not sensitive to light or noise.

Numerous factors can trigger a headache. Certain foods, odors, your period, and the weather can all set off the pain. Stress, depression, anxiety, disappointment, and frustration also can cause headaches. Too much time in front of a computer, sleeping in an awkward position, and overuse of caffeine can all trigger a headache.

To pinpoint the cause of your pain, keep a headache diary and record the circumstances that surrounded the pain, including foods you ate, your mood, how well you slept the night before, and even the weather. After a while, you should see a pattern.

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