Active Seniors

Getting on top of headaches

Many people have experienced or do experience headaches throughout their life. Despite this, there are many different types of headaches which can range in severity and cause.

Tension-Type Headache

The most common type of headache is a tension type headache. This is due to muscular strain of the neck muscles and is described as a constant dull ache that affects the front of the forehead area. Sometimes tension-type headaches can affect the back part of the neck and head as well. These types of headaches are often worse after periods of sitting at a computer or reading, and tend to progress throughout the day.

People who suffer from tension-type headaches often have postures that may place additional strain on the muscles in the back of the neck such as forward head carriage, rounded shoulders and an increased upper back curve. Tension-type headaches tend to ease with heat on the upper shoulder and neck areas, as well as with stretching. If these types of headaches persist it is often a good idea to see a health professional who can give you some specific strengthening exercises that will help to reduce the load on the neck and shoulder muscles.

Migraine Headache

Another common type of headache in some people is a migraine headache. Migraine headaches do differ substantially from tension-type headaches. Migraine headaches are something that people experience earlier in life, and can continue to trouble people throughout life. Unlike tension-type headaches which spread across the forehead, migraine headaches are typically described as a throbbing sensation that affects one side of the head. The throbbing sensation is associated with changes in the blood vessels that supply the head area.

Alot of migraine sufferers also experience what is known as an aura. An aura is a change in vision and/or hearing which often occurs before the headache develops. Migraines can have multiple food triggers such as chocolate, certain cheeses and wine. In addition migraines are often triggered by hormonal fluctuations. If you do suffer from migraines it is often a good idea to keep a diary to track any foods that may bring on the headache. Unlike tension-type headaches, migraine headaches are often resolved with rest in a dark and quiet environment.

Important questions to think about

While tension-type headaches can start at any stage in life, migraine headaches don’t start later in life. If you do experience a headache there are a few important questions you need to think about:

  • Have you experienced headaches throughout life? If yes, is this the same type of headache as you have experienced previously?
  • Where is the pain located? On both sides, on one side, at the front, back or side of your head?
  • Have you had any visual changes or a recent change in glasses prescription?
  • Have you had any recent changes to your medications?
  • Have you been hit in the head, been involved in a car accident or fallen recently?

If you experience a sudden severe headache or have had any recent trauma to the head it is a good idea to talk to your doctor as soon as possible to get it checked out.

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