Headache is a term used to describe aching or pain that occurs in one or more areas of the head, face, mouth or neck.

Headache can be acute, chronic, recurrent or occasional, mild, moderate or severe.

Types of Headache

Primary headache accounts for almost 90% of the all headaches. Three types of primary headaches include:

1) Tension Headache

This is the most common type of primary headache. It is normally related to the middle age and develops due to the stress, anxiety and depression.

2) Cluster Headaches

This type of headache normally appear daily over a period of weeks or months. They may disappear and then recur during the same season in the next year.

3) Migraines

Migraine headache is the most common form of vascular headache. These kinds of headaches are usually characterized by a severe pain on one or both sides of the head, an upset stomach and at times disturbed vision and hearing.

Incidence and Prevalence

Studies reflect that over 45 million people in the US experience chronic and recurring headaches. Out of these, 28 million suffer from migraine every year.

Nearly 75% to 90% of all persons who complain of chronic or frequent headaches suffer from tension headache. This type of headache has been more commonly seen in women than in men. Meanwhile, cluster headache normally affects men in the ages of 20 and 40.

Triggers of a headache

When stimulated due to stress, muscular tension or dilated blood vessels, the nociceptor, the ends of the pain-sensitive nerves sends messages up to the length of the nerve fiber to the nerve cells in the brain, signaling pain.

Research indicates the following to be possible causes of a primary headache:

· Stress, anxiety

· Fatigue

· Depression

· Arthritis in neck or spine

· Temporomandibular joint disorders

· Glaring or flickering lights

· Changes in weather

· Inherited abnormality in blood vessels

· Food-triggered (from nuts, yoghurts, etc.)

When to seek medical help?

Most of the headaches are cured easily by the administration of simple pain-relieving drugs or NSAIDs, COX 2. However, there are certain kinds of headaches that need prompt medical attention. Some of these include:

· Sudden, severe headache with/without a stiff neck

· Recurrent headaches in children

· Persistent headache without any history of headaches earlier

Headache associated with:

· Fever

· Convulsions

· Confusion or loss of consciousness

· Blow on the head

· Pain in the eye or ear

· History of trauma

Diagnosis Tools

The diagnostic steps and specific tools to determine the cause of headache may include:

· Electroencephalogram (EEG), given to measure brain activity

· Computer Tomographic (CT) scan

· Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) scan

· Angiogram

Based on these and other diagnostic measures, a headache is normally classified into one of the four types listed below:

i) Vascular

ii) Muscle contraction

iii) Traction

iv) Inflammatory

Treatment Options

Various modes of treatment are put to effect for relief from headaches. Here we briefly list each one of these:

A) Acute Therapy

· Analgesics (NSAIDS, COX 2 drugs)

· Combination medicines (NSAIDs with sedatives)

· Opiates or narcotics

B) Complementary and alternative medicine

Chronic headache also finds relief form one of the below:

· Acupuncture

· Massage

· Essential Oils

C) Self care remedies

· Healthy lifestyle

· Stress management

· Muscle relaxation

· Proper posture