What are Headache Disorders?
Recurrent headaches are associated with personal and societal burdens of pain, disability, damaged quality of life, and financial cost through taking time off of work due to disability and treatment.
Did you know, almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year?
Headaches are underestimated, under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world.
Symptoms of Headache Disorders
Headache disorders are categorised into 4 types with the following symptoms:
Tension-type headache (TTH)
This headache is described as pressure or tightness, often like a band around the head, sometimes spreading into or from the neck.
- The most common type of headache.
- Usually, fewer than 15 days per month.
- Often begins during the teenage years and affects women more than men.
- May be stress-related or associated with musculoskeletal problems in the neck.
- Usually lasts a few hours, but can persist for several days.
Most often begins at puberty and mostly affects those aged between 35 and 45 years. Migraine is twice as common in women, because of hormonal influences.
- Migraines are 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.
- Migraines are recurrent, often life-long, and characterized by recurring attacks.
Migraines typically include:
- pain of moderate or severe intensity
- one-sided pain
- pulsating in quality
- aggravated by routine physical activity
- with duration of hours to 2-3 days
- nausea (the most characteristic associated feature);
- 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)
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.
Cluster headaches are very rare and affect men much more frequently than women.
Medication-overuse headache (MOH)
Caused by chronic and excessive use of medication to treat other types of headache.
Occurs 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:
- Simple lifestyle modification,
The main classes of drugs to treat headache disorders include: analgesics(aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, oxycodone), 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.
When considering pharmaceutical medication to treat headache disorders, it is important to note that headaches may also be caused by misuse of aspirin and other ‘pain killers’. Other common side effects of these types of medication include gastrointestinal bleeding, stomach ulcers, stroke and heart attack.
Herbal medications are a safe and when appropriately prescribed, effective means to improve headache/migraines. In order to achieve the best possible outcomes and avoid side effects, herbal medications are made up in formulations of anywhere from 2-30 different herbal medications.
There has been significant research conducted on this innovative medical treatment in relation to headache disorders.
There is currently strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of Headache disorders and Migraine3.
Acupuncture appears to improve quality of life for many chronic headache and migraine sufferers at relatively low cost when compared to alternatives4.
Acupuncture is considered safe with a low incidence of minor adverse effects when performed by a qualified practitioner and there is no other non-drug therapy that works better for pain reduction.5
How to get rid of or reduce frequency of headaches naturally?
At Evolution Medical Care, our Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners place a strong emphasis on understanding both what type of headache is being experienced and the syndrome diagnosis-the greater picture as to WHY the individual is experiencing these headaches.
Without understanding the whole picture, it is impossible to achieve lasting headache relief.
Once the whole situation is understood, a treatment plan will be developed which may involve treatments such as Acupuncture, Remedial Massage, Cupping Therapy or Herbal Medicine. These are highly effective treatments for targeting causative factors of headaches/migraines.
Would you like to get started?
- 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
- McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review (Revised edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. http://www.acupuncture.org.au.
4. Wonderling D, Vickers AJ, Grieve R, et al. Cost effectiveness analysis of a randomised trial of acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care. Bmj 2004;328:747
5. Hopper Koppelman M. NICE’s data showed that acupuncture was more effective than usual care and sham needling. BMJ 2017;356:i6748 http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6748/rr-3