Everyone has experienced it – headache, nausea, weakness. Although there is no fever. We say, “It’s all because of the weather” and take a pill. But is it the right thing to do so? Natalya Dubovik, a neurologist, told Pravmir why you cannot tolerate a headache, in what cases it indicates serious problems, and how to help yourself.
— I have a headache. How do I determine if I need to see a doctor immediately?
— First of all, it is a splitting headache. What is meant by that?
There is a visual analog scale, with which we can determine the headache intensity. 10 points is the unbearable headache. It does not go away after a break; it bothers you when you are resting.
If the headache is accompanied by such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, intolerance to light or sound, and fever – this is also a reason to see a doctor.
Disturbing neurological symptoms that accompany a headache are numbness of the tongue, speech disorders, weakness in one half of the body. These symptoms may be the signs of a stroke, an acute cerebrovascular disease. In this case, you must immediately call an ambulance.
If a headache continues for several days and does not go away, this may also be a reason to see a doctor. As well as any acute headache that a patient has not previously had.
— What are the main causes of recurrent headaches? What illnesses can it indicate?
— As a matter of fact, there are a lot of periodic headaches.
The most common are tension-type headaches. These are the headaches that occur due to muscle strain in the cervical region, they can be a result of exhaustion caused by sleep deprivation, stress reaction, or abuse of caffeinated beverages.
— Frequent headaches – what is their periodicity, when should one become wary?
— Often it is when a patient has headaches more than 8 times a month, that is, 2 and more times a week. This is definitely a reason to see a doctor.
There is a concept of episodic and chronic headaches.
A chronic headache is a headache that a person has for six months. This is also a reason to go to a doctor.
— Please, tell us about three main types of headaches – migraine, tension-type headache, and cluster headache. Why do they occur, how can one recognize and treat them?
— Tension-type headaches can be described as bilateral. They can be either mild or moderate in intensity. Such headaches can be accompanied by nausea, pressure in the eyes, and less often by vomiting (typically at the height of a headache). Sometimes this type of a headache may be accompanied by the girdle sensation in the head, creeping sensation, soreness when touching the scalp. The peculiarity is that this headache passes within a day, after rest or sleep. And it does not aggravate after physical activity. The pain passes or decreases after taking analgesics.
— Would you advise to tolerate the pain or to take a pill?
— In medicine, it is believed that you must not tolerate the pain. We always tell a patient that before taking a pill, they should try to relieve the pain using non-pharmacological methods: rub the temples, massage tender points in the neck, forehead, near the eyes, and the scalp. This may ease the symptoms. Stretch your neck, use the acupressure mat at home.
If it is not possible to do this, then it is better to take an analgesic. However, it is best if the analgesic is a one-component drug. It is not recommended to abuse multicomponent analgesics.
Why you should not abuse analgesics
There is also a rebound headache – it develops in people who abuse analgesics, especially complex ones, such as pentalgin, sedalgin, citramon.
If a person takes these drugs more than three times a week for six months, they may develop a rebound headache.
In this case, an analgesic is ineffective, it may even aggravate a headache. The head begins to ache constantly, the person experiences constant discomfort, heaviness in the head.
There are a lot of such patients.
How to treat migraines
A migraine is a common type of headache. It is characterized by pain of strong intensity. This type of headache lasts more than a day – up to 72 hours. The headache does not go away after rest, it aggravates with physical exertion. And it is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and intolerance to loud sounds.
Sometimes migraines can be bilateral. The causes of migraines have not still been thoroughly studied. There are several medical hypotheses about it. It is believed that there is a genetic predisposition – patients with migraines have aberration of serotonin metabolism (serotonin theory). And another theory is that migraines activate the trigeminal nerve system for certain reasons.
Migraine treatment is the relief of the headache attack necessarily with medication. No amount of rubbing will help here. There are special anti-migraine medications. If necessary, a doctor prescribes preventive migraine treatment.
What is a cluster headache?
A cluster headache is a type of migraine. The difference is that the headache attacks are cyclical. You have a headache for a few days, then some peace, and then another headache.
The headache symptoms are the same as with migraines. Severe pain develops in one half of the head and does not go away after sleep or rest. These attacks can last more than a day.
It is also recommended to relieve pain using single entity drugs. Patients do not always go to the doctor, they may start abusing analgesics, which may cause serious complications in gastrointestinal tract, development of gastric erosions and ulcers.
— Sometimes they say that the head aches “because of the weather”. Can a change of the weather give you a headache? Or does this pain have other causes?
— In fact, every person has a blood pressure reaction when the air pressure and weather change. Our blood vessels react to this. Yet, somebody can feel it and others cannot. Therefore, yes, we can say that someone is sensitive to the weather. However, it should be clarified that older patients can complain about this. At a young age, you should not blame everything on the weather.
In general, a person may be weather sensitive. But not every headache should be associated with the weather.
— Can a headache indicate the onset of hypertension?
— Of course. We always recommend that patients measure their blood pressure,
— Does high blood pressure cause any particular type of a headache or not?
— Most often, it resembles the tension-type headache.
— If you have a headache, do you always need to measure your blood pressure?
— Yes, if possible, it is always better to measure the pressure. If the high blood pressure is detected, it is advisable to take medications that lower the pressure.
— Can one prevent a headache?
— There are no universal recipes. Take preventive measures in terms of the general regime. Comply with the sleep schedule. Lack of sleep is stressful for the body. Limit the intake of caffeinated beverages, eat regularly, without long breaks, and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Do regular therapeutic exercises – stretch the back of the head, stretch your neck, at least a couple of times a day.
— What shouldn’t one do when they have a headache?
— You need to stop physical activity, stop working hunched up, you should not overheat (be under direct sunlight), do not go to a steam bath. Stop consuming alcohol and energy drinks.
Translated by Julia Frolova