There are so many life circumstances that could result in a headache — stress from traffic, work, having too many bills to pay, a worldwide pandemic, loud music, and staring at your phone’s screen all day, to name a few. However, not all headaches are created equal. Some are run of the mill pains, while others are completely disruptive of your day — such as is the case with migraines. But, how do you know which one you’re having? What are the symptoms of each of them? And, what are the best forms of treatment?
Overview of Headaches
The most common types of headaches are tension headaches. They are relatively short in duration, typically lasting several minutes or for a couple of hours. If you get them frequently — 15 days of the month or more — then you have chronic headaches.
Causes of Headaches
Although they can sometimes be a sign of a serious illness, this isn’t the case for most people. A regular tension headache is caused by stress in the muscles of the head and neck, as well as chemical activity in the blood vessels in the brain. That said, what triggers these events can vary from person to person. Common causes include:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Skipping meals
- Eating processed meats with nitrates
- Drinking alcohol
- Dental problems
- Ear infections
Symptoms of Headaches
The symptom of a tension headache is simply pain in your head. They involve mild to moderate pain that could be experienced across your entire head, forehead, or the sides of the head. In some cases, instead of pain, you may feel an uncomfortable pressure.
Treatment for Headaches
Most headaches can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, such as Ibuprofen. If this form of treatment is not providing relief — or if you experience daily or almost daily headaches — you should schedule an appointment with a medical provider to rule out the existence of a more serious health condition, such as meningitis, stroke, or a brain tumor.
Overview of Migraines
Although migraines cause intense headaches, they are so much more than just a headache. It can be felt on the entire head or only one side of the head. They can also last from several hours to several days. It can also develop in stages — known as prodrome, aura, attack, and finally, the postdrome phase.
The word prodrome is a medical term that refers to the early signs or symptoms of a disease. During this stage of a migraine, a person may experience mood changes, constipation, increased thirst, and neck stiffness. It often occurs up to two days before the migraine attack begins.
This phase of a migraine affects the person’s vision. For some people, they occur right before migraine pain, while for others, it happens simultaneously. Symptoms include seeing bright spots and/or flashes of light or partial or temporary vision loss. During this stage, a person may also experience pins and needles in their limbs.
This is when the pain in the head starts. It is severe, and it’s when the person also experiences sensitivity to light and sounds, nausea, vomiting, and a throbbing sensation inside their head. This is the worst part of the migraine, and it can last for days.
This is the final phase of a migraine. The pain is gone, but the person feels drained and out of energy. Sudden movements can also bring back pain in the head — yet the pain goes away when the sudden movement stops.
Causes of Migraines
Different people have different triggers for migraines. For some, it may be a certain smell, loud noises, extended periods of time in bright sunlight, or hormonal changes. It’s also possible to experience migraines when starting to take certain medications or eating foods with artificial sweeteners or MSG. That said, it is unknown why these circumstances trigger migraines in the first place.
Symptoms of Migraines
Migraines are severe headaches. They are intense enough to feel debilitating. In addition, they are accompanied by several symptoms that can fully disrupt a person’s day — and if they’re chronic, their life. The most common ones include:
- A throbbing sensation at the temples (the sides of your head)
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Neck stiffness
- Seeing auras around objects or flashes of lights
- Experiencing blind spots
Treatment for Migraines
Migraines require more than over-the-counter medications. Your doctor would need to prescribe oral medications or nasal spray that are specifically designed for your type of migraine. For example, some individuals do not experience all four stages of a migraine, so they would require a different medication than a person who does.
In addition to medication to treat pain, you may also receive a prescription for anti-nausea medication. As a last resort — and if all earlier forms of treatment fail to provide relief — your doctor may prescribe stronger narcotics, such as opioids.
If You’re Experiencing Migraines or Chronic Headaches, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including pneumonia vaccine. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.