Types Of Chronic Headaches
In order for a headache to be considered chronic, it has to be present for a minimum of 15 days a month for at least three months in a row. This doesnt mean you must have a headache for two weeks in a row to fit into this diagnosis. Chronic headaches typically come and go, but unfortunately, they are present more often than not. The three most common types are migraines, muscle tension headaches, and cluster headaches.
What Can I Do To Help A Headache Or Migraine After It Begins
Treatment for headaches depends on the cause of the headache. For tension headaches , rest can be helpful, as well as using heat or massaging and stretching the muscles can all help ease or eliminate the headache . Meditation, relaxation exercises, and other means of reducing stress may also be helpful . Sinus headaches may be eased by these methods, as well as elevating the head and hydration. Of course, pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, may be helpful . But as mentioned above, there is a limit to how much these may be used. And while some physicians may allow patients access to opioids to treat severe headaches, most agree that opioids will do more harm than good in the long run .
When it comes to migraines, many people find that taking a painkiller can prevent its development if they take it as soon as they first notice symptoms . Preventative medications are often prescribed. Other than that, it seems that rest and treating any co-occurring symptoms is the best way to get through it .
Keep A Migraine Diary
Different people will have different migraine triggers. Avoiding triggers can help you prevent the headaches and lead a healthy life.
Maintaining a diary will help you determine what triggers your migraines. Keep a record of when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and how you got relief from the pain.
Some well-known migraine triggers are:
- Strong smells.
- If you get a âhangoverâ after one drink, it is better to avoid drinking completely.
- Smoking can trigger migraines. Quitting smoking can reduce your migraines and their severity.
- Stress can cause the body to release hormones that may affect your neurological system and in turn trigger migraine headaches. So, try to manage your stress.
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
- Riboflavin supplements can also be considered. Consult your doctor first.
- The herb butterbur can prevent migraines, possibly because it supports healthy blood flow to the brain.
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Learn To Be Assertive And Communicate
If you communicate in a passive fashion, chances are that you arent letting people know what you want out of life. Strong communication skills can help you gain self-confidence, be clear about your feelings, communicate without getting angry, and lower your stress level. MindTools offers a free Assertiveness Training Course that can help you learn how to communicate your wants and needs.
What To Do If You Get A Migraine At Work
Even the best preventative measures dont work all the time. If you experience regular migraines, chances are youll find yourself riding one out at work. If that happens, Diamond recommends trying to take 20 minutes to a half hour in a quiet spot away from your desk to rest and take whatever acute migraine medicine you use, if any. Once the migraine clears, or at least subsides, you can return to work.
Some people who have migraines use caffeine to treat their symptoms, but Diamond stresses that this only works if you dont overuse it. If youre slamming four lattes a day, then you may have some headaches just because of your excessive use of caffeine, says Diamond. But if you generally dont use caffeine a lot, then it certainly can be used as a medication. Diamond recommends limiting your normal caffeine intake to less than 80-100mg per day, or about one cup of coffee.
Set Functional Priorities To Help With Medication Priorities
For patients who have pain every day, I talk with them about their functional priorities, says Dougherty. For example, she may recommend that a person with chronic migraine who works Monday through Friday take their medication two or three of those days, she says.
On weekends, when you have more reserve, time, and family support, thats the time when you double down on your cognitive behavioral therapy, your biofeedback, your nonmedication techniques, and we develop a plan, says Dougherty. Its different for every person theres not one answer, she adds.
Dougherty advises being concrete about your goals for function and what you want to get done, whether its attending a family event or completing a 5K race.
Those kinds of goals can be helpful, she says. What do you want to do and how can we set realistic expectations and make a plan to move toward that?
Coping Tips For Chronic Migraine Sufferers
As a neurologist specializing in headaches, I see patients with chronic migrainesa serious and debilitating disease which can cause moderate to severe disability. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, approximately 2% of people in the United States suffer with chronic migraines. Chronic migraine is defined as headaches that occur on more than 15 days each month. Some people suffer from migraine headaches continuously all day long, every day of the month.
Migraine is a neurological disease. It is important to understand that chronic migraines are physiological, not psychological. They are related to how your body functions and not caused by problems with your mind. Most importantly, migraine is more than a bad headache. It is a collection of neurological symptoms that can include headache, changes in vision, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch and smell.
Chronic migraines are caused by a combination of environmental and hereditary factors. Some people tell me that “my mother has migraines, but she has them once a year.” Having a family member who suffers from any type of migraine can indicate a genetic disposition making you more susceptible to getting headaches. One family member could have daily headaches, another only once a year.
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What Causes Chronic Migraine
Its not fully understood what causes chronic migraine.
For a lot of people chronic migraine develops gradually with migraine attacks becoming more frequent over time. Around 2.5 out of 100 people with episodic migraine will develop chronic migraine each year. For some people chronic migraine will go into remission within 2 years of becoming chronic.
The pattern of chronic migraine will vary depending on your individual circumstances. For some people it may return to episodic migraine, some people find it stays the same and others find that it gets worse.
There are a number of medical conditions that can increase your tendency to have migraine. These include:
Managing these can help with managing migraine and the effectiveness of migraine treatment.
The American Migraine Foundations Guide To Triggers & How To Manage Them
The sudden onset of migraine means a dark room, bed, and a cool towel for most of us. While these seem to come out of nowhere, many will find that there are usually some signs that a migraine attack is on its way. These signs can reveal a pattern in your symptoms, and even provide you with preventative tools for managing migraine. Everyone has different triggers, but there are a few common culprits that affect a large number of people living with migraine. When you can identify your triggers, you are one step closer to effectively managing your migraine and avoiding future attacks.
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How To Cope When One Of Your Migraine Triggers Is Stress
To say that dealing with the chronic pain of migraine is a challenge is an understatement. Those challenges are magnified when stress is one of your migraine triggers. Stress can cause migraine, chronic pain creates more stressand so the cycle continues. And, to add insult to injury, if your body is accustomed to constant stress, a weekend off can result in a let down migraine when your stress abruptly lowers. Not exactly a win-win for those living with migraine.
The migraine brain is vulnerable to change such as sleep and stress, and is, therefore, best kept stable, says Peter Goadsby, M.D., Ph.D., who specializes in the treatment of headache disorders at UC San Francisco Medical Center.
In addition to finding a doctor, keeping a headache diary, and finding the proper medication, one of the most effective things you can do to control migraine is to reduce your stress, which sounds easy, right? Wrong. So, in our busy lives, how can we better manage the stress associated with migraine? Here are a few tips on how to do this.
Listen To Your Doctor
Once your doctor takes a full medical history and comes up with a treatment plan for your migraine attacks, itâs important to follow the plan as closely as you can. In general, your doctor — often a special headache doctor called a neurologist — will suggest you try to treat an attack at the earliest sign of symptoms. This often gives the best chance of success. In many cases, the medication and the dosage are carefully chosen to prevent the need for further doses, which for some medications can cause a âreboundâ or âoveruseâ effect over the long term.
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Track Your Migraine Attacks
When you have chronic Migraine, keeping a track of your headaches and attacks can be extremely useful. It helps you to identify your triggers better, helps your doctor to make a correct diagnosis of what kind of Migraine you might be having, and it also helps in understanding the effects of prescribed treatment and medication. Honestly, the first rule of living well with Chronic Migraine is getting accustomed to recording and analyzing your everyday life in detail.
There is a host of information you can track to better understand Migraine. Things that are generally helpful to track are:
- When the headaches started
- Weather conditions of the day
- Phases of your menstrual cycle
The more amount of information pertaining to your daily life you record, the better you will stand to identify your triggers and management strategies. The Migraine Trust provide a helpful Migraine tracker template on their website that you can download and use. Or, just make one for your own based on the information here.
What Are The Symptoms Of Migraines
There are four different phases of migraines. You may not always go through every phase each time you have a migraine.:
- Prodome. This phase starts up to 24 hours before you get the migraine. You have early signs and symptoms, such as food cravings, unexplained mood changes, uncontrollable yawning, fluid retention, and increased urination.
- Aura. If you have this phase, you might see flashing or bright lights or zig-zag lines. You may have muscle weakness or feel like you are being touched or grabbed. An aura can happen just before or during a migraine.
- Headache. A migraine usually starts gradually and then becomes more severe. It typically causes throbbing or pulsing pain, which is often on one side of your head. But sometimes you can have a migraine without a headache. Other migraine symptoms may include
- Increased sensitivity to light, noise, and odors
- Nausea and vomiting
- Worsened pain when you move, cough, or sneeze
- Postdrome . You may feel exhausted, weak, and confused after a migraine. This can last up to a day.
Migraines are more common in the morning people often wake up with them. Some people have migraines at predictable times, such as before menstruation or on weekends following a stressful week of work.
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Adopting A Migraine Lifestyle
A Migraine lifestyle isn’t that much different from a normal healthy lifestyle. Indeed, many of the known triggers of Migraine attacks are things that are inherently unhealthy like not sleeping enough, or drinking less water. Having a healthy lifestyle and trigger management system in place along with medication has been proven to contain Migraine much better than simply relying on medication.
Here are some steps you can introduce in your everyday life to that end.
How Are Migraines Treated
There is no cure for migraines. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing additional attacks.
There are different types of medicines to relieve symptoms. They include triptan drugs, ergotamine drugs, and pain relievers. The sooner you take the medicine, the more effective it is.
There are also other things you can do to feel better:
- Resting with your eyes closed in a quiet, darkened room
- Placing a cool cloth or ice pack on your forehead
- Drinking fluids
There are some lifestyle changes you can make to prevent migraines:
- Stress management strategies, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback, may reduce the number and severity of migraines. Biofeedback uses electronic devices to teach you to control certain body functions, such as your heartbeat, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
- Make a log of what seems to trigger your migraines. You can learn what you need to avoid, such as certain foods and medicines. It also help you figure out what you should do, such as establishing a consistent sleep schedule and eating regular meals.
- Hormone therapy may help some women whose migraines seem to be linked to their menstrual cycle
- If you have obesity, losing weight may also be helpful
If you have frequent or severe migraines, you may need to take medicines to prevent further attacks. Talk with your health care provider about which drug would be right for you.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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How To Accurately Assess The Number Of Migraine Days Youre Having
Chronic migraine is defined by how many headache days you have per month. Episodic migraine is when a person has fewer than 15 headache days per month, and chronic migraine is when a person has 15 or more days per month of headache with migrainous features, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
Dougherty finds that people tend to underreport migraine days to their doctors and often ignore headache days if the headaches dont cause disability.
Disability can mean different things for different diseases. In migraine, disability is measured by scales like the Migraine Disability Test, which asks questions about missed days of social or leisure activities, missed days of work or school, and how many days or parts of days that migraine impacted work productivity, including both household and paid work.
Headache days can be assessed more accurately, Dougherty says, by asking people how many days they have zero headache, then working backward from there.
If your own doctor hasnt taken this approach to counting migraine and headache days with you, why not try it on yourself, then let your doctor know your results?
Changes In Or An Irregular Sleep Schedule
The connection between migraine and sleep is undeniable. Sleep renews and repairs all parts of the bodyincluding the brainso it makes sense that when your sleep schedule becomes irregular, you are more prone to migraine attacks. Something else to note when it comes to sleep: Nearly half of all migraine attacks occur between 4:00am and 9:00am, putting people at a greater risk for developing a sleep disorder.
How to cope: Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Eliminate TV, texting, reading, and listening to music while in bed, and try your best not to nap during the day. This article from the AMF Resource Library has great information and tips on how to make a sleep plan that works with your lifestyle.
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Dealing With Chronic Headache Pain
Did you know that headaches are one of the leading types of chronic pain, along with back pain and arthritis? A headache may sound like a fairly minor ailment, but if you’re in pain every day, you know that chronic headaches can be very debilitating.
Getting a migraine or a cluster headache under control is a bit more complicated than taking two aspirin and calling your healthcare provider in the morning. Here’s what you should know about the various types of chronic headaches and your treatment options.
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How Does It Work
The endocannabinoid system is the network of cannabinoid receptors that exists within our body to regulate how we feel pain. The natural compounds found in cannabis seek out these receptors, and can ease pain signals as a result. Thats why more and more people are looking to analgesic CBD products, and cannabis more broadly, to help with sleep, appetite stimulation, mood and stress, and to combat inflammation and nausea. So when we talk about the efficacy of managing migraines with cannabis, were talking about the adjacent symptoms as well as pain relief.
One of the most well-known studies conducted in 2016 focused on 121 adults living with migraines who were administered cannabis in edible and inhalable forms. Of this focus group, 19 percent experienced less migraines, 11 percent saw an improvement in acute migraine attacks, and 11 percent experienced side effects of some kind, with the most common being tiredness and difficulty controlling the timing and intensity of the high. Over a four year period, the study also found inhalation was the most effective method.