What is headache?
Headache, a common symptom, is a chronic disorder that tends to occur frequently. According to the International Headache Society, headache disorders are classified as primary or secondary. The etiology of primary headache is not well understood to be classified according to clinical pattern. The most common primary headache disorders are tension-type headache and migraine. Secondary headaches are attributed to underlying disorders such as fever, head injury, viral infections, sinusitis or drug side effects. Different types of headache need different treatments. If you provide detailed information of your headache, it will help to improve your headache.
Things that you should mention to your doctor:
- Onset time of headache.
- Headache frequency, severity (score 0-10) and duration of attack.
- Quality, location (e.g. on one or both sides of the head), and radiation of pain.
- Associated symptoms and abnormalities (e.g. nausea, vomiting or photophobia etc.)?
- What makes the pain better or worse?
- Family history of migraine?
- Your response to any previous treatments for headache.
- Any recent changes in work or lifestyle?
- Associated conditions or factors (e.g. head trauma, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, or toxic exposure; headache is provoked by cough, sexual activity and exertion).
You should seek medical attention immediately if your headache is associated with the following symptoms:
- Worsening headache with fever, neck pain, and neck stiffness.
- An altered level of consciousness: slurred speech, somnolence, and gibberish…etc.
- Sudden onset of server headache: that could be described as the "worst headache of your life."
- Unsteady gait, focal weakness and arm/leg numbness.
- Vision impairment: double vision or blurry vision.
- Change in personality.
- Seizure, or syncope.
- Sudden onset of headache (especially, in pregnant women or age over 40).
Home care for headache includes:
- Take medications as directed. Don’t skip any dose of your medication.
- Avoid substances that trigger headaches (e.g. alcohol, less or much caffeine, aged cheese, or hot dog…etc.).
- Find a quiet and dark place to lie down and rest (especially during migraine attack).
- Massage the scalp softly (only if scalp without any open wound).
- Get a good rest: fatigue, stress, or sleep disturbance (e.g. sleep longer or less, and circadian rhythms changed) may worsen the headache.
- The triggers of headache can vary from person to person. Bring the “Headache Diary” with you all the time and record any precipitating or relieving factors. It will improve your headache problem.
- Place a cold compress on your forehead (Stop it if the headache gets worse).
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Regular exercise may help prevent or reduce the frequency of chronic headache such as aerobic exercise or yoga.
- Maintain good sleep habits and sleep quality.
- Amin, F. M., Aristeidou, S., Baraldi, C., Czapinska-Ciepiela, E. K., Ariadni, D. D., Di Lenola, D., ... & Linde, M. (2018). The association between migraine and physical exercise. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 19(1), 1-9. doi: 10.1186/s10194-018-0902-y
- Sullivan, D. P., Martin, P. R., & Boschen, M. J. (2019). Psychological sleep interventions for migraine and tension-typeheadache: a systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1-8. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-42785-8
- UpToDate. (2020, Mar 03). Evaluation of headache in adult. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-headache-in-adults?source=search_result&search=headache&selectedTitle=1~150