A headache is an explosion in the brain that rips your skull apart and splatters your brains all over the ceiling because the force of the explosion creates such an impact. However, you continue to live through it and somehow all the pieces of your head reunite after the pain stops.
Maybe that isn’t the whole truth, but that sure is the way it feels when I get a headache! I don’t usually suffer from headaches, but they sure are doozies when I do have one. I remember the headache I had when I stopped drinking soda and eating candy throughout the day. When I say “throughout the day,” I literally mean that I consumed something sweet nearly every half hour. Yeah, I know…pa-thetic. What can I say except that I love, love, love sweet things! Anyway, THAT headache lasted for nearly a week and I seriously thought it was going to make my brain explode. “Coming off” sugar is not an easy thing especially when your head feels like it is “coming off” too.
What Is A Headache
The REAL definition of a headache is a pain in the head. A headache is also called a cephalalgia which is pronounced like sef-uh-lowl-juh. I actually love the way that word rolls around in my mouth when I say it. #NerdAlert – The word geek just entered the room.
The brain doesn’t have any pain receptors, so the brain is not feeling any pain. The pain from a headache is felt around the brain in the head and neck. More specifically, the pain sensitive arteries, bones, ears, eyes, mouth, muscles, nerves, skin, sinuses and veins have the pain receptors that send painful headache signals.
Causes Of Headaches & 18 Types Of Headaches
- Caffeine headaches – Caffeine prompts cortisol production which is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol helps with the fight or flight reaction because it raises blood pressure, speeds carbohydrate and fat metabolism and increases the amount of blood sugar in our system. This reaction makes us feel hungry! So when we eat or drink products with caffeine and then plop down on the sofa, our body doesn’t burn off anything and instead, we gain weight. Of course, if you don’t keep the caffeine coursing through your veins at the same time and amount every day, you’re going to get a caffeine headache. Take it from an ex-caffeine junky, you can either keep consuming all that caffeine which is causing damage to your body and adding to your weight gain or you can stop it all. May I suggest the cold-turkey method? You will go through withdrawals, headaches, lethargy and grumpiness, but it will be over before you know it. Well, it kind of drags by, but once you quit consuming all that caffeine, you’ll never have a caffeine headache again.
- Chronic daily headaches – If you have about fifteen headaches during the month and they continue for three or four months, you have chronic daily headaches. There are many, many causes for this type of headache and just as many treatments. Since having chronic daily headaches can drastically reduce your quality of life if left untreated and could actually be a sign of a life-threatening illness, you should seek medical attention to determine the cause of the headaches.
- Cluster headaches – The cluster headache is also called the suicide headache for a good reason. These headaches are usually on one side of the head and last a short amount of time, but come on suddenly. You can go from pain free to a cluster headache that feels like someone just hit you in the head with a sledge hammer without any warning. The pain is horrible and unrelenting. Triggers for cluster headaches can include high altitudes, food, alcohol and cigarettes. Also, cluster headaches are more common among men.
When I was in my early twenties, I suffered from excruciating cluster headaches maybe six times a year. They were usually short-lived headaches and I learned how to prevent them from lingering too long. My tried-and-true method for getting rid of my cluster headaches started with going into a quiet, dark room. If that wasn’t possible, I would just go into a stairwell or restroom, bow my head and close my eyes. Resting my elbows on my knees, I would lay the top of my head on my palms while adjusting my fingers over the pounding veins on the top of my head. Then I would MASH down on the throbbing veins with as much pressure as I could muster and hold that position for about ten minutes without moving or opening my eyes. The whole time I was sitting silently with my eyes closed, I would think about being in the middle of a lake silently sitting in a boat while watching the water barely ripple around the boat. Keeping my mind focused on that picture IN my head and applying the pressure TO my head would usually do the trick. After doing this for ten minutes, I would slowly reduce the pressure on the top of my head. If the cluster headache was still there, I would immediately apply full pressure again for another ten minutes. If the headache seemed to be gone, I would keep lessening the pressure until I wasn’t mashing my head anymore. When the whole cluster headache experience was all over, I felt like someone had run me over by a truck!
- Dental headaches – Bruxism (clenching your teeth together or grinding your teeth back and forth over each other) or temporomandibular joint disorder (also called TMJ and is caused either by dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint or another problem that affects the region of the temporomandibular joint) can cause dental headaches. If you have dental headaches, be sure to visit the dentist because there are many things they can do to help. There are simple things they can do like mouth guards that you wear at night and take out in the morning that are designed to prevent you from grinding your teeth and thus eliminating the dental headache in the morning.
- Drug headaches – Coming off of medication like steroids and anti-depressants too quickly can cause excruciating headaches. Also, some medications can cause headaches and it will be listed as a side effect of the drug.
- Early morning headaches – If you wake up with an early morning headache, there are several reasons it could happen which include bruxism, temporomandibular joint disorder, medication withdrawal, it’s a migraine or you have a brain tumor. Okay, that one is a bit scary!
- Emergency headaches – If you have an injury to the head, fever, quick rise in blood pressure or excruciating pain shoot to your head for no apparent reason, you should seek medical attention immediately because it could be life-threatening.
- Emotional headaches – After crying a river because your heart is broken, it is highly likely that you will experience an emotional headache. It can be anything from a dull ache to a pounding migraine. The only way to prevent this type of headache is to have as many feelings as the Grinch did before his heart grew bigger.
- Food allergy headaches – When a food is consumed that triggers an allergic reaction in the body, one of the things it causes is a horrible headache that lasts for days and days. The best way to prevent a food allergy headache is to identify the food that you are allergic to and don’t consume the food! Food allergies can be life-threatening, so once you know you have an allergy to a particular food, avoid it and be very diligent about identifying the food in any dishes that are served to you by other people. Some common foods that people say cause them headaches include raw onions, aged cheeses, citrus fruits, peanuts, strawberries and grain.
- Ice cream headaches – Have you ever had a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? Don’t even ask me to pronounce it. Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia literally means “nerve pain of the sphenopalatine ganglion” which is caused by drinking or eating something really cold like milk shakes and ice cream. When the cold food or drink touches the roof of the mouth, it causes pain to shoot to the top of the head. It is believed that the blood vessels rapidly constrict and swell in response to the extreme cold felt by the nerves. The best way to get rid of the painful ice cream headache is to slow down and let your mouth warm up between bites! I know it is hard, but try. Mmmmmmm, I love ice cream and especially love strawberry milk shakes or my banana milkshake with a secret ingredient. I think I’m gaining weight just thinking about them.
- Menstrual headaches – Men have no idea how hard it is to be a woman! When it is close to “that time of the month,” there is a sudden drop in estrogen and it can a headache or even migraines. So while women are bloated, cramping, grumpy, weepy AND having a period, they also can have headaches. Like I said, it is hard being a woman.
- Migraine headaches – The dreaded migraine headache is very prevalent in my family, but it skipped me. Yay! The cause of migraine headaches is not known, however, they are more common among women and hormones seem to have a lot to do with them. Migraine headaches are usually throbbing on one side and accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting. Noise, light and activity can make the migraine pain worsen.
- Orgasm headaches – No, I didn’t make it up just so that I could have sex in the list! Orgasm headaches are caused by having an orgasm and are more common in men. They are not dangerous and usually don’t last long. I’m talking about the headache!
- PTSD headaches – Because everything in life is topsy turvy when you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), having a headache isn’t surprising. When having a PTSD flashback, the adrenalin is pumping the same as you would experience during the fight or flight moments in life. Depending on how many flashbacks you experience, the PTSD headaches can last a long time. During the eighteen months that I had continual flashbacks every minute of every day, I experienced constant headaches that did not respond to any painkillers.
- Rebound headaches – This isn’t a headache that is caused by the person you start dating exclusively after your last boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. A rebound headache is caused by taking too much medication over an extended amount of time. For instance, taking pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin more than two times a week can cause you to have rebound headaches in a few months.
- Sinus headaches – A sinus headache is associated with a sinus infection. If you do not have a sinus infection with nasal mucous that is green, you probably really have a migraine and not a sinus headache. About 88% of people who claim to have sinus headaches really have migraines!
- Tension headaches – Ah yes. The most common headache of all! A tension headache is that aching pressure all over the back of the head and neck. It feels like your brain is trying to come out of the back of your head! Some of the main causes of tension headaches include: grinding your teeth, sitting improperly for long periods of time, sleeping on a bed or pillow that is too hard or soft, STRESS and anxiety. Tension headaches respond well to massage, long bubble baths and other relaxation methods. The secret to getting rid of a tension headache is often avoiding the trigger and learning how to relax.
- Weekend headaches – After working your butt off all week long and being filled with stress, the weekend is a blessed relief. However, if you decompress too quickly, sleep in late on the weekend mornings and stay up late during the weekend nights, you may experience a weekend headache. The drastic change in lifestyle stressors and routine can be enough to bring about a headache.
Many headaches are avoidable if we take the time to pay attention to our environment and our body. Missing out on experiences is a drag when a headache is wrecking the day. Not only is it debilitating to each individual who suffers with the headache, but there is also a massive financial cost to society due to lost working hours and productivity.
Obtaining the appropriate treatment for headache disorders requires not only correct treatment with cost-effective medications and patients educated on headaches and lifestyle changes necessary to avoid having them, but it also requires proper training of health care professionals to recognize and treat headaches.
There are many groups that are focused on headaches. If you suffer from any headache, learn why you are getting headaches and make every effort to rid your life of them. Some groups that help with headaches are:
- The International Headache Society (members)
- The International Headache Society (non-members)
- National Headache Foundation
- The World Headache Alliance (WHA)
- American Headache Society® (AHS) Committee for Headache Education (ACHE)
Good luck getting rid of your headaches and let me know if you figure out the whole Grinch-heart thing. By the way, I think #6 and #13 might possibly cancel each other out if experienced together.