4 types of headache and how to treat them

Ev­ery­one will ex­pe­ri­ence one at some point in life – but LIZ CON­NOR dis­cov­ers not all headaches are cre­ated equal – and diet can play a part

Loughborough Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

W HEN you’re the un­sus­pect­ing vic­tim of a headache, the pain can be so in­tense, it feels as though it’s pen­e­trat­ing your brain.

Any­one who suf­fers from reg­u­lar headaches will tell you that the un­pleas­ant symp­toms, while only tem­po­rary, can be ex­tremely de­bil­i­tat­ing, putting a block on your so­cial plans and mak­ing work tasks near im­pos­si­ble.

Thank­fully, most headaches will go away on their own, and aren’t a sign of any­thing se­ri­ous. In se­vere cases, though, they can can linger for days, caus­ing vom­it­ing, sen­si­tiv­ity to light and vis­ual prob­lems.

But you don’t have to be a slave to pain. By bet­ter un­der­stand­ing how your brain works, you can find tech­niques to nip the tor­ture in the bud.

Here, reg­is­tered nutri­tion­ist Dora Walsh ex­plains the typ­i­cal types of pain as­so­ci­ated with headaches and mi­graines, and how what you eat and drink can help soothe them. TEN­SION HEADACHE “THE most com­mon type of headache is called a ten­sion headache,” says Dora. “It’s usu­ally char­ac­terised by a dull, pres­sured pain on both sides of the head and fore­head – and you may also feel it in the shoul­ders and neck.”

“It’s im­por­tant to note that if you’re suf­fer­ing with any type of headache, en­sure you’re drink­ing plenty of wa­ter to stay hy­drated and main­tain con­sis­tent blood sugar lev­els by eat­ing reg­u­lar meals. Avoid al­co­hol, too, as it will make the pain worse.”

If you reg­u­larly get headaches at work, it might be time to as­sess both your work­load and your com­puter set up, as Dora ex­plains that mus­cle con­trac­tions can of­ten be made worse by star­ing at a screen for too long, poor pos­ture or emo­tional stress. THROB­BING HEAD PAIN A SE­VERE throb­bing pain in your head is usu­ally a prob­a­bly a sig­nal you have a mi­graine com­ing on.

“Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that hor­mones, sero­tonin and oe­stro­gen, may cause in­flam­ma­tion of blood ves­sels, lead­ing to the puls­ing pain,” says Dora. “This link with hor­mones may also be why some women ex­pe­ri­ence mi­graines im­me­di­ately be­fore their pe­riod. In fact, mi­graines af­fect three times as many women than men.” Dora ex­plains that while the cause of headaches and mi­graines are still a bit of a mys­tery, it’s clear that cer­tain foods may trig­ger them. The types of food that bring on pain can vary com­pletely from per­son to per­son though. “If you sus­pect it could be due to food, in or­der to help iden­tify your trig­gers, try and keep a food di­ary to record the food and how you feel af­ter­wards so you can spot any pat­terns around the times when the next mi­graine strikes.”

As well as avoid­ing your trig­ger foods, over the counter pain re­lief or herbal reme­dies such as Care Fev­er­few Mi­graine Re­lief Tablets (£5.59, 60 tablets; weldricks.co.uk) may also help. A phar­ma­cist can rec­om­mend the best op­tion for you. HEADACHES THAT CAUSE PROB­LEMS WITH VI­SION IF you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lines that cross your vi­sion or patches are blurry, then you may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an aura – a symp­tom that of­ten pre­cedes the pain of a mi­graine.

Dora ex­plains: “Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have found that auras are a re­sult of elec­tri­cal waves in the brain that spread out from a point of elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion to im­pact other func­tions.

“Mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency has been linked to headaches and mi­graines. And stud­ies have shown that mag­ne­sium ox­ide may help to pre­vent mi­graines with auras, so it’s im­por­tant to get enough mag­ne­sium in your diet.

“You can try by in­creas­ing mag­ne­sium-rich foods, such as nuts and seeds, while eggs and milk are also good sources.” HEADACHES AND NAU­SEA RE­SEARCH has shown that peo­ple who reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms – such as re­flux or di­ar­rhoea – have a higher rate of headaches, and that mi­graines may ac­tu­ally slow down the di­ges­tive sys­tem.

“Di­ges­tive de­lay caused by mi­graines is called ‘gas­tric sta­sis’ and may be a re­sult of in­creased ac­tiv­ity of the ner­vous sys­tem, which can oc­cur when a mi­graine hits,” says Dora.

“It’s the undi­gested food sit­ting in the stom­ach that may be to blame for the nau­sea you’re feel­ing, which can lead to vom­it­ing. This may also be the rea­son why so many mi­graine suf­fer­ers lose their ap­petite.”

To help re­lieve the nau­sea, Dora sug­gest gen­tly sip­ping wa­ter, gin­ger or pep­per­mint tea, and try nib­bling on neu­tral foods such as dry crack­ers or toast. It’s also cru­cial to make sure you’re get­ting plenty of rest to help your body re­cover. Mi­graine suf­fer­ers who ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere phys­i­cal ef­fects should al­ways speak to a phar­ma­cist or book an ap­point­ment with their GP, to help man­age the symp­toms more ef­fec­tively.

Many peo­ple suf­fer headaches be­cause of stress at work Some­times the best thing for a headache is to make sure you are well hy­drated

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