Headache Treatment Overview: Medicinal, Home, and Natural Options

Headache Treatment Overview: Medicinal, Home, and Natural Options

Peace Nwoha |Mar 30, 2021

How to Treat a Headache

Headaches are very common, and you’ve likely had them at some point in your life. A headache refers to pain in your head, face, or the upper part of your neck that feels like either a dull ache, sharp pain, continuous pain, or throbbing pain. Some headaches can be severe enough to disrupt your daily activities and interfere with work. Don't worry though, we are here to talk about how to treat a headache. Thankfully, they can be managed through the use of medications and lifestyle adjustments.

Although there are over a hundred types, headaches can be broadly classified into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are headaches that do not arise as a result of an underlying medical condition. Examples include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Migraines
  • Cluster headaches
  • New daily persistent headaches (NDPH)

Secondary headaches, on the other hand, occur as a side effect of an underlying medical issue, including but not limited to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Trauma to the head
  • Infections
  • Tumors involving the head and neck
  • Sinusitis

How Are Headaches Different From Migraines?

Migraines are a type of primary headache which are more intense and accompanied by symptoms. They are usually one-sided, involving the ear or eye on the affected side. Before the onset of the migraine, some symptoms, often referred to as “auras,” may occur. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Seeing flashes or spots
  • Altered sensations of smell or touch
  • Reduced mental alertness

These auras can occur from ten minutes to two days before the migraine sets in. Although auras are common, not all migraines are accompanied by them. The throbbing one-sided pain in the head that can be severe enough to disturb daily activity characterizes the pain as a migraine.

What Causes Headaches?

Headaches occur in response to your body’s nerves, sending pain input to your brain. These nerves can be triggered by several factors, which then send signals to the pain centers in your brain. Some of these factors include:

  • Emotional and physical stress
  • Strong scents from perfumes and other chemicals
  • Alcohol use
  • Alterations in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Foods such as chocolate, cheese, and coffee
  • Inhalation of smoke
  • Bright lights or noise
  • Poor head positioning or posture
  • Exposure to allergens

Some headaches, especially migraines, have been said to be hereditary. Children of people who have migraines are up to four times more likely to have them than someone without a genetic link.

Headache Treatments

To treat headaches, you must first determine what your trigger is. The easiest way to know what your trigger could be is by recording when and where you typically get headaches, frequency durations, and any symptoms that present before it. Your doctor may request an MRI or CT scan to rule out tumors or other abnormalities within your brain in the case of a secondary headache.

The treatment of headaches can vary according to the type and trigger. Some may require simple behavior modification, while others may respond to only medication. There are a variety of treatment options available for the treatment of headaches.

Home Remedies

Not all headaches require the use of medication. Some can be managed by therapy and lifestyle modification. This is particularly true for headaches which are mild and often caused by stress. Employing stress management techniques, relaxation exercises, and breathing exercises can be of benefit in relieving headaches. Applying hot or cold head compresses, meditating in a serene environment, getting a massage, avoiding noisy environments, and switching off the lights could significantly improve your health.

Natural Remedies

Several natural remedies can help to treat and decrease headaches. Increasing your daily intake of water, limiting alcohol, and avoiding foods like fish, cheese, and beer, which are high in histamines, are just some of the natural ways to get rid of headaches. Peppermint and lavender essential oils and herbal remedies such as butterbur and feverfew are said to relieve headaches in children and adults.

Medical Treatment

Sometimes, medications are used to treat headaches. Some of them include triptans, which are typically used to treat migraines and can be taken when you begin to feel an aura. Others are given to treat symptoms linked to the headache, including NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen), acetaminophen, and antiemetics.

You can get most of these medications without a prescription. However, some of them may require one. These medications are most effective when used in conjunction with other non-medication recommendations.

When to See a Doctor?

In most cases, headaches are not life-threatening, and with knowing how to treat a headache, you can handle it at home. But, should you begin to experience any of the following symptoms, they may be an indication of a more serious underlying condition:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurring of speech
  • A sudden, persistent headache
  • Eye or ear pain and neck stiffness
  • Headache that occurs after trauma to the head
  • Seizures

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