UNDERSTAND PAIN

Understand Your Headache Pain

A headache. It can feel quite literally like the worst thing in the world. Let’s get to the cause of your headache so you can get back to living your days uninterrupted by pain.

THE BASICS OF HEADACHE PAIN

Headaches happen when the nerve endings in different parts of your head and neck become irritated. There are many different kinds of headaches that occur for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common:

  • Tension headache
    • Dull pressure or tightness on both sides of the head and sometimes the neck
    • Can last anywhere from half an hour to a whole week
    • Can cause fatigue in some people
    • Exact cause is unknown—stress appears to be a common trigger
  • Migraine
    • Throbbing on one or both sides of the head
    • Can range from moderate to severe pain
    • Usually lasts 4-72 hours
    • Can cause additional symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds
    • Exact cause isn’t entirely understood, but environmental factors and genetics may contribute
    • Triggers include stress, changes in sleep patterns, certain foods and food additives (like the sweetener aspartame), certain types of medications, and hormonal changes in women
  • Cluster headaches
    • Sharp, severe pain that comes on quickly, usually around or behind one eye>
    • Occur in frequent attacks, or “clusters,” that can go on for weeks or months
    • Each attack can last 15 minutes to 3 hours
    • Can cause additional symptoms, like tearing, runny nose, congestion and agitation
    • No known causes, but an abnormal hypothalamus (part of the brain that plays a role in nervous and endocrine systems) may play a role
    • No known triggers, but drinking alcohol during a cluster headache can cause an even worse headache

"Get back to living your days uninterrupted by pain."

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

The first step to relieving your headache pain is trying to figure out what kind of headache you have. Consult with your doctor for a diagnosis as some can be serious.

an illustrated bottle of aleve inside a yellow circle
For tension headache symptoms,

try over-the-counter pain medications, like Aleve, which can help relieve the pain when used as directed. If that isn’t enough, consult with your doctor.

illustration of person meditating inside a yellow circle
There are also drug-free options for everyone.

People who suffer from headache may benefit from supportive therapies, whole-living strategies and better-quality sleep.

TIPS YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW

Know your headache

Tip 1 of 3

Consult with your doctor to determine what kind of headache you have and the treatment plan that will give you the best relief. The time and pattern of attacks are important, so keep a diary of exactly when you are getting headaches, what might be triggering them and what helps relieve the pain. This information can help your doctor identify your headache type.

An ounce of prevention

Tip 2 of 3

The best way to deal with headaches is to stop them from happening. The next time you speak to your doctor, ask what you can do to prevent headaches. Here are some questions to help you start the discussion: Will exercise or other lifestyle habits help? Is there an underlying cause that can be treated? Are there medications for preventing headaches?

Take a deep breath

Tip 3 of 3

Breathing exercises can be helpful when you have a particularly bad headache. In a comfortable place, close your eyes and picture relaxation entering your body and tension leaving it. Take a normal breath, then a deep breath in slowly through the nose, with chest and lower belly rising as your lungs fill, abdomen expanding fully, then out through the mouth or nose. Repeat for a few minutes.