Headache is one of the most common health complaints which bother everybody. Even a small child of five years often complains of headache. Some possible causes include tension, infection, allergy, injury, hunger, change in the flow of blood in vessels of the head or exposure to chemicals.
It is good to know that most headaches that occur without other symptoms will respond well to self-care. Another good news is that the majority of headaches (more than 90 per cent) are caused by tension and respond well to prevention, critical assessment and self enquiry and home treatment.
An unusual headache that is very different from any you have had before or a change in the usual pattern of your headache, is a cause for concern. However, if you have had similar headache before and your doctor has recommended a treatment plan for them, emergency care may not be needed.
Headache that often occur during or after physical exertion, sexual activity, coughing or sneezing may be a sign of a more serious disease and should be discussed with a health professional without delay.
Call your doctor now if you, have:
* A very sudden ?thunderclap? headache.
* A sudden severe headache unlike any you have had before.
* Headache with stiff neck, fever, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness or confusion.
* A sudden, severe headache with a stiff neck that develops soon after the headache starts.
* Headache with weakness, paralysis, numbness, visual disturbances, slurred speech, confusion or behaviour changes.
* Headache following a recent fall or blow to the head.
Possible Headache Causes
Headache can occur:
On awakening, in jaw muscles or in both temples, each afternoon or evening; after hours of desk work; with sore neck and shoulders, on one side of the head, with visual disturbances or runny nose, after blow to the head, after exposure to chemicals (paint, varnish, insect spray, cigarette smoke), with fever, runny nose, or sore throat, with fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, with runny nose, sneezing with fever and pain in the cheekbones or over the eyes, on morning when you drink less caffeine than usual, following a stressful event and at the time during the menstrual cycle.
More than 90 per cent of headaches are tension headaches, which become more frequent and severe during times of emotional or physical stress. Women and girls are specially prone to it. Tightness or pain in the muscles of the neck, back, and shoulders may accompany a tension headache. A previous neck injury or arthritis in the neck can also cause tension headache.
A tension headache may cause pain all over the head, pressure or a feeling like having a tight band around the head. The head may feel like it is in a vice. Some people feel a dull, pressing and burning sensation above the eyes.
The pain may also affect the jaw, face, neck and upper back. One can rarely pinpoint the centre or source of pain.
Reduce emotional stress. Take time to relax before and after you do something that has caused a headache in the past. Try the progressive muscle relaxation or pranayam regulated breathing exercise. Reduce physical stress. When sitting at a desk, change positions often and stretch for 30 seconds each hour. Make a conscious effort to relax the jaw, neck, shoulder and upper back muscles.
Evaluate the neck and shoulder posture at work and make adjustments if needed. Exercise daily. It will help relieve tension. Treat yourself to a massage. Some people find regular massages very helpful in relieving tension. Limit caffeine intake to one to two cups per day. People who drink a lot of caffeinated beverages often develop a headache several hours after they have their last caffeinated beverage or may wake with a headache that is relieved by drinking caffeine. Cut down slowly to avoid caffeine-withdrawal headache.
* Stop whatever you are doing and sit quietly for a moment. Close your eyes and inhale and exhale slowly. Try to relax your head and neck muscle.
* Take a stretch break or try a relaxation exercise.
* Gently and firmly massage your neck muscles.
* Apply heat to the painful area with a heating pad, hot water bottle or a warm shower.
* Lie down in a dark room with a cool cloth on your forehead.
* Taking aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen often help relieve a tension headache. However, using nonprescription or prescription headache medications too often may make headache more frequent or severe. So it should be used very judiously.
* Lastly but most important, do introspection what is bothering you. Expectations from others bring in unhappiness. Inculcate habit if ?giving? and ?forgiveness??it will go long way in relieving tension headache.
(The writer is Secretary General of Delhi Gyanecologist Forum.)