What are Headache Disorders?
- Headache disorders, which are characterised by recurrent headache, are associated with personal and societal burdens of pain, disability, damaged quality of life, and financial cost.
- The WHO estimates that almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year.
- Headache disorders are the leading cause of disability in persons under 50 years old.1
- Worldwide, a minority of people with headache disorders are diagnosed appropriately by a health-care provider.
- Headache has been underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world.
Symptoms of Headache Disorders
According to the WHO, headache disorders are categorised into 4 types with the following symptoms:
Tension-type headache (TTH)
- TTH is the most common headache disorder.
- Episodic TTH, occurring on fewer than 15 days per month, is very common.
- Chronic TTH, occurring on more than 15 days per month, is less common.
- TTH often begins during the teenage years and affects women more than men.
- Its mechanism may be stress-related or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck.
- Episodic TTH attacks usually last a few hours, but can persist for several days.
- Chronic TTH can be unremitting and is much more disabling than episodic TTH.
- This headache is described as pressure or tightness, often like a band around the head, sometimes spreading into or from the neck.
- Migraine most often begins at puberty and mostly affects those aged between 35 and 45 years.
- It is twice as common in women, because of hormonal influences.
- It is caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.
- Migraine is recurrent, often life-long, and characterized by recurring attacks.
- Attacks typically include:
- pain of moderate or severe intensity
- pulsating in quality
- aggravated by routine physical activity
- with duration of hours to 2-3 days
- nausea (the most characteristic associated feature);
- attack frequency is anywhere between once a year and once a week; and
- in children, attacks tend to be of shorter duration and abdominal symptoms more prominent.
Cluster Headache (CH)
- CH is relatively uncommon affecting fewer than 1 in 1000 adults, affecting six men to each woman.
- Most people developing CH are in their 20s or older.
- It is characterized by frequently recurring (up to several times a day), brief but extremely severe headache, usually focused in or around one eye, with tearing and redness of the eye, the nose runs or is blocked on the affected side and the eyelid may droop.
- CH has episodic and chronic forms.
Medication-overuse headache (MOH)
- MOH is caused by chronic and excessive use of medication to treat headache.
- It may affect up to 5% of some populations, women more than men.
- MOH occurs by definition on more days than not, is oppressive, persistent and often at its worst on awakening.
Causes of Headache Disorders
There are many factors which can lead to headaches or migraines.
Therefore, the importance of diagnosing and treating the correct cause is paramount.
Headaches or migraines might be caused by:
- Muscular tension
- High blood pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Blood-borne toxins due to organ dysfunction or injury
- Decreased blood circulation due to injuries
- Emotional stressors
- Hormonal disturbances
- Medication overuse
Treatment of Headache Disorders
Treatments available consist of medications, simple lifestyle modification, patient education and modalities such as acupuncture.
The main classes of drugs to treat headache disorders include: analgesics, anti-emetics, specific anti-migraine medications, and prophylactic medications. In addition to this, practitioners of herbal medicine use various formulations of naturally occurring herbs to treat headache disorders.
Headaches may also be caused by misuse of aspirin and other ‘pain killers’. The action of such drugs thins the blood, allowing blood to more easily reach the brain, but the temporary relief of symptoms fools the body’s homeostatic effects, leading to increased pressure and disruption to affected blood vessels and structures on completion of the drug’s duration. Sufferers also often ignore their doctor’s warning that aspirin causes gastrointestinal bleeding, and that repeated use may lead to stomach ulcers.
Prognosis of Pathology
What causes headaches or migraine
How are headaches/migraines treated?
In the initial consultation, focus will be placed on the appropriate diagnosis and developing a treatment plan. In the case of accidents or injuries, please bring any associated medical records so that we may work closely with your general practitioner.
Evolution Medical Care provides practitioners experienced in Acupuncture, Cupping and Herbal Medicine. These are useful tools for targeting causative factors for headaches/migraines. Acupuncture is also indicated for stress and regulating other dysfunctions of the body systems. Chinese herbal medicine treats deficiency of blood nutrients and biochemical irregularities leading to headaches and migraines. A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can regulate your health and see you well away from your suffering.
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- Steiner, T., Stovner, L., Vos, T., Jensen, R., Katsarava, Z. (2018). Migraine is first cause of disability in under 50s: will health politicians now take notice? Steiner et al. The Journal of Headache and Pain (2018) 19:17
- Naeem, F., Schramm, C., Friedman, B. (2018). Emergent management of primary headache: a review of current literature. Current Opinion in Neurology: February 15, 2018 – Volume Publish Ahead of Print – Issue – p doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000547