Hell of headaches
> Expert has tips on how to avoid them
HEADACHES are more common than you think. Some of us seldom have them. Others get them regularly. How can we ease the pain when they do strike? And can we prevent them altogether?
Headache expert Charly Gaul of the German Headache and Migraine Society has some answers.
What causes headaches? Causes are often not easy to identify, but there are triggers. These can be as diverse as dehydration, a change in the weather, too much sun or drinking alcohol. A headache can also be a symptom of an illness such as flu.
What differentiates normal headaches from migraines? Experts call the normal ones “tension headaches”. The pain may affect one or both sides of the head, and may throb. It’s usually only pain, nothing on top. However, some patients do feel that pain very strongly.
Migraines are different. As well as causing severe pain, migraines are also characterised by nausea, extreme sensitivity to light, sounds and, often, smells. Commonly only one side of the head hurts. Migraine attacks can last anything between four and 72 hours.
How do we treat normal headaches? While movement often makes a migraine worse, some activity can help ease tension headaches. Applying peppermint oil to the temples and the back of the neck can also alleviate the pain. Over-thecounter drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen would be the next step, although these aren’t really required for light headaches.
What helps against migraines? A migraine is a signal from the brain that it needs rest. Withdrawal to a darkened room is the first step. Sufferers can take the aforementioned over-thecounter medicines, although sometimes these don’t alleviate the pain caused by migraines. If that’s the case, triptane should be taken. This special medicine also helps counter the sideeffects of a migraine, though it should only be taken after consulting a doctor.
How do we prevent headaches and migraines? For some people, a headache or migraine can be brought on simply by drinking a glass of red wine. If you notice these triggers, you should steer clear of them – in this case, it would be better to avoid alcohol completely.
Regularly getting endurance training and relaxation exercises can also help with prevention. For severely afflicted patients, doctors will prescribe medication to head off the headaches. – dpa