womenTALK: Blog

Monday, Aug 23rd 2010

Got a Headache? Sometimes Less is More.

authored by Sheryl Kraft

Headaches. They make me want to scream.

I hate to talk about headaches, because I suffer from them - and usually try to take the focus off of the unpleasant pain, nausea, noise and light sensitivity by denying that I even have one. (Sometimes it works for me. In fact, exercise seems to temporarily take my mind off the pain. While I'm at the gym, the pain usually disappears).

But I've yet to find something that works to cure my headaches. I've tried it all -  various medications, laying in a dark room, cold packs, hot packs; even pressing my fingers so hard into my hand – a technique known as acupressure – that my hand ends up aching even more than my head. And I'm sure I’m not alone in my quest for headache relief: every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. takes a trip to the ER with a headache or a migraine. In fact, headaches tend to be much more partial to women, too – over 27 million of us lucky ones.

And the fact that my favorite headache doc picked up and moved his office to parts unknown has left me without any professional I truly trust to help. Although, today when I read through Ivanhoe.com’s post about headaches I got to the very end, the part that says "for more information, contactXXX" and there he was – at the Cleveland Clinic. Perhaps he'll be hearing from me – and you, too? (If you have any questions for Dr. Stuart Tepper, please send them to me and I'll be happy to forward them on to him).

I've just about given up on medication, and have almost – but not quite -  come to peace with the fact that I have to just wait it out, sometimes for as long as 2 or 3 days. But lots of people don’t do this. In their desperation to get rid of the pain or on the advice of their docs, they often mix their prescription drugs with over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil. What follows is not what they intended – their headaches return after just a few hours. Too many medications taken at one time backfires. Instead of curing the pain, it can cause it, making the headache much, much worse.

Although cutting off all medications – many times the treatment for this problem – won't fully cure patients of their acute migraines, it can lessen their severity and frequency. If this is you, check with your doctor to see if what you are taking is absolutely necessary.

This Matters> Here’s a head's up to those of you who might be unsure of when a headache warrants a call to your doc:

  • ·       You usually have two or more headaches a week
  • ·       You take a pain reliever for your headaches every day or almost every day
  • ·       You need more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter pain remedies to relieve your headaches
  • ·       Your headache pattern changes
  • ·       Your headaches are getting worse

 

If your headache is worse than all that, here’s when you should hightail it to the ER or doctor's office. If your headache:

  • ·       Is sudden and severe
  • ·       Is combined with a fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
  • ·       Follows a head injury
  • ·       Gets worse despite rest and pain medication

 

Want to learn more?

Info from the Migraine Research Foundation http://www.migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine.html

To do a migraine self-assessment, click here http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/MI00007

Read what the folks at healthywomen.org have to say http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/migraine

Headache-busting helpers http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/headache-help-without-drugstore

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Comments

Aug 31, 2010 13:Aug 1 | sherry steiker said

headaches

I relate headaches to stress. My daughter who is 26 was going through some stress from her job and then she had huge headaches. As soon as her project was over, the headaches disappeared. Its amazing what stress can do to the body.

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

Indeed, stress can certainly

Indeed, stress can certainly bring on a monster headache - not to mention so many other body ills.

Aug 27, 2010 02:Aug 2 | sarah henry said

Lack of food, water, or sleep

Lack of food, water, or sleep are the biggest culprit for my headaches, and for many others I suspect too, yes?

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

Oh, yes, those "lacks" can

Oh, yes, those "lacks" can certainly bring on a pounding head, I agree.

Aug 26, 2010 17:Aug 5 | frugal kiwi said

Headaches have been a

Headaches have been a constant problem post stroke. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when I get them or not. Sadly, just something I have to live with as best I can.

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

That's a lot to deal with.

That's a lot to deal with. Hopefully they will soon subside and you'll be headache-free. That has to be very difficult.

Aug 25, 2010 20:Aug 8 | Claudine Jalajas said

Headaches..

I get all types. I get them all the time. I could be an honorary neurologist with all the info I've learned. This started when I was very young (preteen) and my son has inherited the same problem.

It bothers me that my children will grow up remembering all the days that mom was walking around with ice packs on her head begging them to please be quieter.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

Yes, my sons inherited my

Yes, my sons inherited my headaches, too. But it looks like they did eventually outgrow them - hoping yours does, too.

Aug 25, 2010 15:Aug 3 | Almost Slowfood said

Luckily I don't have too many

Luckily I don't have too many headaches, but when I get a zinger, it really puts me out of commission. Interested in seeing what Dr. Tepper recommends.

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

You are very fortunate not to

You are very fortunate not to get too many of these nasty things visiting you. May it rub off on me :)

Aug 25, 2010 07:Aug 7 | Casey said

Thanks for this - my sister

Thanks for this - my sister gets frequent (and completely incapacitating) migraines, so I'm passing it along to her. Poor kid. It's good to know she's treating them correctly.

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

Ouch. I can sympathize with

Ouch. I can sympathize with your poor sister.

Aug 25, 2010 06:Aug 6 | Alisa Bowman said

For a while I was doing this

For a while I was doing this thing that my chiropractor recommended which basically involved re-educating the curve of my cervical spine. Every night I'd lie in this contraction that pulled my head back. It was dorky looking and feeling, but I had zero headaches when I was doing this regularly. Now I've neglected it and my headaches are back.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

I find sometimes doing chin

I find sometimes doing chin tucks does help; that must be akin to the contraption your chiropractor gave you. BAck to it~!

Aug 24, 2010 22:Aug 10 | Kristen said

Thankfully, I've never had

Thankfully, I've never had too many headaches. And mine seem to go away quickly with a little OTC attention. I have had close friends though who've battled migraines for years--I can't imagine.

Aug 24, 2010 21:Aug 9 | ruth pennebaker said

headaches

I have a weird history with this. About three different times in my life -- under periods of great stress -- I've had the auras that precede migraines, but never the actual headache. But God, those auras are creepy -- watching fireworks spread across your field of vision as you slowly go blind.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

Ruth - I have auras, too. The

Ruth - I have auras, too. The first time it happened I was about 16 and knew nothing about it. Then my mom told me she gets them and what they were. Crazy, psychedelic patterns, zig-zag lines, and a big blind spot. Awful (especially when they happen when you're driving).

Aug 24, 2010 19:Aug 7 | Jane Boursaw said

Good to know I'm on the right

Good to know I'm on the right track. I get migraines now and then, and pretty much just wait it out. The most annoying thing is not being able to see for about 20 minutes - usually when I'm on deadline, of course.

Sep 06, 2010 21:Sep 9 | Sheryl said

I'm with you on the not being

I'm with you on the not being able to see thing - annoying, to say the least. Especially when you're caught driving in the car!

Aug 24, 2010 19:Aug 7 | Vera Marie Badertscher said

Headaches

I felt lucky that I escaped my mother's migraines. But now I have headaches of an indeterminate cause--3 or 4 times a day, 1/2 to 1 hours at a time. Neurologists have taken all the pictures of what is inside my skull (contrary to popular opinion, there IS something in there) and thrown various medications at the headache to see what sticks.

So migraines are terrible, but at least they are treatable for most people.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

That's a lot of headaches,

That's a lot of headaches, Vera. Hpping that you find something that helps your pesky headaches.

Aug 24, 2010 18:Aug 6 | Jennifer Margulis said

Husband with headaches

My husband has been having terrible headaches. Strong coffee, lying down, ice water, more sleep all seem to help.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

Yes - coffee. Some people

Yes - coffee. Some people swear by it, but unfortunately it's never helped for me.

Aug 24, 2010 14:Aug 2 | Kris said

I've only had migraines a few

I've only had migraines a few times in my life, but I have chronic, low grade headaches all the time. Staying hydrated seems to help, but so far no doctor has been able to figure out why.

Aug 24, 2010 16:Aug 4 | Sheryl said

Sorry to hear about those

Sorry to hear about those nagging headaches, Kris. Hope you're able to figure them out soon. They can wear on you, I know..

Aug 24, 2010 00:Aug 12 | Merr said

This sounds like an

This sounds like an incredibly frustrating issue to have. I've recently become aware that many many people suffer from chronic migraines. Such an intense problem.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

Sounds like you are one of

Sounds like you are one of the headache-free lucky ones! (what's your secret?)

Aug 23, 2010 18:Aug 6 | marthaandme said

This is great info. Once in a

This is great info. Once in a while I get a really bad one and usually end up taking Tylenol and then Advil and I think you're right that it actually makes it worse or come back faster.

Aug 28, 2010 10:Aug 10 | Sheryl said

Maybe just stick with one of

Maybe just stick with one of those? Good luck - hope it works.

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