There are many different classifications of headaches:
For most doctors, a headache is a headache. If you have pain, you will get medication to relieve the pain. While you may need some medication to get through a particularly bad headache, it’s important to classify and treat the underlying cause of your headache.
Everyone can get a headache now and then. Have you ever had one of those nights in which you had a little too much to drink, only to wake up feeling like a jackhammer is drilling in your skull? If you’ve suffered with a ”hangover” in the morning, you know exactly what caused it… Well, sort of.
Hangovers usually are a combination of dehydration, loss of B vitamins, and the inability of your liver and kidneys to process and eliminate all that alcohol.
However, if you are suffering with regular headaches, dizziness, or vision disturbances, there can be a more serious underlying condition at work. Many patients have told me (in all seriousness) that they don’t get headaches; but they take Aleve 3 times per week — or Excedrin or Tylenol! This, of course, means that they are indeed getting headaches, which aren’t a normal part of life, but just medicating them away.
Our brain doesn’t have any nociceptors or pain receptors. These are specialized nerve endings that transmit information we associate with pain. So, how are we able to get pain in our head?
The arteries that supply your brain with blood are filled with receptors that send pain signals. These receptors are also in your meninges, which is a connective tissue that supports and protects our brain in the skull have nerve receptors in them. Therefore, anything that causes a change in blood vessel diameter or puts pressure on the meninges can cause pain.
Although brain tumors, malignancies, and aneurysms - a ballooning of an artery - can cause pain in your head, fortunately this is quite rare. Even so, headaches associated with dizziness or nausea need to be checked out very carefully. Headaches and loss of balance can be signs of something much more insidious.
Of course, if you fracture your skull, that would also give you a pretty terrible headache. You can also get what is known as a tension headache if the muscles from the back of your neck are tight. Headaches can also be caused by a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Anything affecting the trigeminal nerve and nucleus that supplies sensation to the meninges can cause pain in the head.
are typically caused by muscle imbalances, vertebral and disc dysfunction, TMJ problems, or vision problems. Even needing a new prescription may cause tension headaches.
need to be evaluated to determine what triggers them. Recent research suggests that patients suffering with migraines are more likely to have a stroke later in life.
also need to be evaluated to determine the triggers so that those triggers can be treated effectively. This, hopefully, will eliminate the need for medications for the symptom of the headache.
can be caused by poor diets, poor blood sugar regulation, dehydration, and/or excessive drinking. These types of headaches are easily treated. However, if you are experiencing bouts of vertigo, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, or if you are having the worst headache of your life, then please go the the ER immediately.
are often very treatable, and the treatments are as varied as the causes. If you are suffering with chronic recurring headaches, it is time to get a thorough neurological evaluation. Call us to schedule your appointment to get to the bottom of your headache pain, and eliminate them for good.