… and we’re back with part 2 of our headache discussion!
Remember that cluster headaches and migraines are both related to central nervous system dysfunction that causes inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. Management of both headache types include anti-inflammatory medications, triptans, and/or breathing 100% pure oxygen, all with the goal of reducing irritation of the affected nerve. These treatments can be effective, but the real key to managing these headaches is prevention. Recall the list of triggers in the previous chart. Avoiding these can help to keep the headache from happening in the first place, especially smoking and alcohol use. It can also be useful to keep a diary of what led up to your headache, including foods you ate, the amount of sleep you’ve had, and what you were doing, in order to identify your specific triggers.
Tension and cervicogenic headaches are both related to increased muscle tension and stress. Tension headaches will typically respond better to over-the-counter pain killers than migraines or cluster types and may also be relieved by muscle relaxants or certain medications that are traditionally antidepressants. Some of the same medications will help to relieve muscular pain experienced in cervicogenic headaches, but this type will not resolve until the primary pathology in the neck is addressed. There has also been a lot of success with non-pharmaceutical treatments in these types of headaches in particular. Biofeedback training, cognitive behavioral therapy, myofascial release, and spinal manipulation are all supported in current research. These options can be especially effective in long-term headache relief, as they correct the source of the problem rather than manage symptoms as they occur.
If any of this has motivated you to avoid the problem of chronic headaches, there are a few simple things that you can do. Some easy first steps are to update your eyeglasses prescription, double check your workspace ergonomics, recall how long you’ve been using your pillow, and make sure that you are drinking enough water. Bigger projects involve working on your posture and finding ways to diffuse stress. We’ve added an album of some basic exercises that you can do at home or at your desk to work those muscles that help you keep your whole spine in good alignment. Keep in mind that these are very general exercises and may not completely alleviate your headache. If you have more than an occasional, mild headache, seek attention from a health care professional to work out the best plan of care.
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