Learn more about how headaches work and what treatment options are available
We’re all pretty familiar with what headaches are, as most of us have had at least one in our lifetimes. Headaches are simply pain experienced in any part of the head. They can differ from person to person in terms of pain severity, duration, and how frequently they occur.
Headaches can either be classed as primary or secondary. Primary refers to headaches that arise on their own and aren’t related to another health issue, and Secondary refers to headaches that arise as a result of a particular health issue.
Headache symptoms can differ, especially depending on the type of headache you’re experiencing. Below are three of the most common types of headaches.
- Tension headaches: This is the most common form. They typically consist of pain on both sides of the head and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days.
- Migraine: Migraines are severe, throbbing headaches associated with other symptoms such as nausea, light sensitivity, visual abnormalities, and others.
- Cluster headache: These headaches can be extremely painful. Cluster headaches earn their name because they typically occur in groups or ‘clusters’, either at night or early in the morning.
Whilst many of us may be familiar with over-the-counter pain reliever medication, there is a range of treatments available for headaches. Some of these traditional treatments include:
- Pain reliever medication purchased over the counter (e.g., aspirin or paracetamol).
- Medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Relaxation techniques and stress management.
- Dietary changes.
- Review medications with your doctor which may be causing headaches as a side effect.
- Treatment for any underlying issues which may be causing headaches (e.g., high blood pressure, or neck and jaw problems).
Can medicinal cannabis be used to treat pain from chronic headaches and migraines?
If you’ve exhausted other treatment options and haven’t experienced any relief or improvement, it might be worth chatting to your doctor to see whether medicinal cannabis could be suitable for you.
We spoke to Dr James Stewart, one of Australia’s leading minds in cannabis medicine who provided a medical view about headaches and traditional treatments.
Dr Stewart is a true believer in focusing on overall health and always promotes a healthy lifestyle as the key. Click below to learn more about headaches, and traditional and alternative treatments you may wish to discuss with your doctor.
As there are many different types of headaches, the list of causes can be long. A common condition like a headache can be caused by more than one contributing factor. Some of the more extreme headaches can last for many days and can impact the rest of the body in several manners and are often known as migraines.
Headaches are sometimes classified as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’. An example of a primary headache can be a feeling of tension and can come and go throughout the day or night. A secondary headache is more persistent pain and often needs some kind of headache relief or treatment.
Pain receptors in an individual’s head or neck can be stimulated by headaches caused by the following:
● Stress and anxiety
● Poor diet
● Eye problems
● Ear, nose and throat issues
● Muscular tension
● Jaw and dental issues
● Various medications
● High blood pressure
● Poor posture
● Hangovers from alcohol and drugs
● Eating disorders
● Injury to the spine, head and neck
● Extreme temperatures
● Loud or uncomfortable noises
To successfully treat the pain that a chronic headache causes, a combination of looking into the triggers and assisting with the pain are usually the best option. If you’re suffering from chronic migraines or headaches and struggle to find relief, consulting your doctor or healthcare professional is generally a good idea as they can assist with the best treatment for migraines or headaches. Often patients will be referred to an expert like an ear nose and throat specialist, a neurologist, a physical therapist or an optometrist for intervention to resolve the root cause.
Some common headache treatments can include:
● Changing your diet
● Using the counter pain relief for migraine or headaches
● Stress management strategies
● Relaxation techniques
● Alternative therapies like chiropractic or acupuncture
● Elimination of medications that could be causing headaches as a side effect
● Medications for arteries
● Treatment of an underlying health concern such as high blood pressure, jaw issues or neck tension
For a headache to be classed as chronic, you would generally have suffered from the condition for 15 or more days of the month. These headaches can occur daily or come in clusters and can range from mild to severe pain. Chronic headaches aren’t associated with any specific type of headache pain as the term refers to the length and recurrence of the problem.
While a tension headache is one of the most common chronic headaches, it can be mild and quite tolerable — not requiring headache treatment. Most chronic headaches will be classified into one of two categories, both relating to a migraine.
Headaches that can occur regularly include:
● Hemicrania continua
● Idiopathic intracranial hypotension
● Tension headache
Currently, there is no cure for migraine. There are management options rather than eradication with migraine relief and different types of headache treatments widely available. These migraine medications and treatments are used to help ease the symptoms and make chronic headaches or migraines a little more manageable day to day.
If you suffer from this condition, it can take some time to figure out the best treatment for migraines that will work specifically for you. There may be different types or combinations of medication that are best for you and it is wise to get a doctor to help you discover the most effective option for you.
Some people find that over-the-counter medications are helpful and enough to assist with the pain during a migraine attack. Medicines like paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen are all common when it comes to relieving migraine pain. If you suffer from nausea associated with migraines, there are anti-nausea tablets and soluble painkillers that may be gentler on your stomach but are still effective.
When it comes to effective headache treatment, there are a lot of traditional medicines like basic painkillers that might help you. Other forms of headache relief can help when managing the varying degrees and forms of pain associated with this problem. It’s important to remember that repeated use of migraine or headache medication can lower your tolerance — it is always best to seek the help of a doctor if you are having a recurring headache.
Acute medications for headaches and migraines can include:
● Over-the-counter pain relief including paracetamol and anti-inflammatories like naproxen and ibuprofen
● Combination medications like aspirin or paracetamol that also contain caffeine or a sedative
● Prescription products, mostly for people that suffer from severe drawn-out migraines that affect their vision and gastrointestinal system
Some alternative and home remedies that you may want to try before turning to headache medication include:
● Plenty of rest
● Applying a hot or cold compress
● Posture correction
● Stress management
● Meditation and relaxation techniques