What is a Headache?

A woman in a red blazer rubs her templesA headache is just that: an ache in your head. It can be at the front of your head, behind your eyes, at the temples, at the back of the head or somewhere between the base of your skull and your neck. All you know at the time it hits is that it hurts, and you want the pain to stop, now. Headaches are one of the most common causes of pain in the body, and people everywhere throw thousands of dollars a month at over-the-counter medications and prescriptions to make it go away.

Suffering from frequent headaches? Taking pills randomly is only a temporary solution and too many pills can cause other complications. Visit us at Lakeland Spine Center today and we will help you look for a permanent solution that is safe.

Headache Classifications

Because so many people suffer from headaches, and because they are so difficult to treat at times, the International Headache Society decided in 2007 to establish a classification system for the malady. This will allow doctors to offer up a more complete diagnosis of the headache and its cause and provide a more effective course of treatment to alleviate it.

The International Headache Society determined that there are now three major classifications of headache pain: primary, secondary and other. Included in the “other” category is the headache pain associated with cranial neuralgia, facial bone pain, and dental maladies. Secondary headaches are those thought to be the result of another condition, such as sinusitis, allergies or a pinched nerve.

Primary Headaches

To be considered a primary headache, the Society laid down guidelines restricting this category to medical conditions where the sole or primary symptom is a headache, which affects a patient’s quality of life. That said, this classification is said to include migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches.

Tension headaches are thought to be the most common type of headache reported today. They are more common among women than men, and nearly 90% of all adults have either had or will have a tension headache during their lifetime. These are muscle contraction headaches that cause mild to moderate pain, fluctuating in intensity and frequency over a prolonged period of time.

Migraines are thought to be the second most common reported headache. More than 28 million people in the US will experience migraine headaches, children included. The exact cause is unknown, but they are known to be related to changes in the brain, inherited abnormalities in the brain and blood vessel contractions. The pain associated with migraines can be moderate to severe, and associated with symptoms like sensitivity to light, sound or smell, as well as nausea and abdominal pain.

Cluster headaches are the rarest, but also the severest of all primary headaches. The pain is generally described as being a burning or stabbing sensation accompanied by constantly throbbing. During an attack, sufferers often find that they cannot remain still, and will pace while trying to endure the pain. The pain is often located behind one eye, or around the eye area, and never changes sides. The term cluster refers to the characteristic grouping of these attacks, generally one to three times a day, for up to two weeks during a cluster period. It may go into remission for as long as years, only to reappear again in the future.