Frequent Headaches?

By Siew Ching

That loud drumming going on and on in your head has a name.

Boing, boing, boing…. Is that what you feel in your head after a long day of staring at documents and your computer? Headaches are really common and for some people, popping a paracetamol or two can resolve the issue. They come and go (depending on your workload and stress level!) but if you find yourself dealing with headaches at work more often than you’d like, you’d need to get to the root of it once and for all!

For starters, did you know that there are many different types of headaches brought upon by different reasons? Here are the more common ones:

#1 Tension Headache
What it feels like: That feeling of tightness in your temples, behind your eyes, and in the base of your neck. Your head feels like it is going to explode!
What causes it: Most tension headaches are episodic, which means you get them sporadically once or twice a month, depending on what’s currently happening in life for you. Many experience it when they are stressed, anxious, or tired but tension headaches can also be a result of poor posture and strained eyes. It is particularly common with women aged 20 to 40.
How to treat it: Firstly, drink up! Dehydration can make your headaches worse so increase your fluid intake to help prevent headaches. Also, if you’ve been sleeping late recently and the headaches are coming on like a tow truck, make it an early night to get the rest you really need. Immediate relief would be to use over-the-counter medications but a more lasting solution would be to manage your stress and have work-life balance.

#2 Migraine Headache
What it feels like: A throbbing pain on one side of the head. Sometimes you feel nausea, increased sensitivity to light and sounds. You can also feel a lot of strain on your neck, shoulder, and even on your muscles. It can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe it interferes with your daily activities.
What causes it: There are a number of triggers – hormonal changes in women, stress, too much stimulation like a strong perfume, secondhand smoke, and bright lights, sleep deprivation, physical exertion – the list goes on! It can also be genetics. If you have a family member with migraines, then you have a good chance of developing them too.
How to treat it: What you first need to know is that migraines are different from headaches. The former is more intense and severe, and has other symptoms in addition to head pain. Some people end up seeking care at the hospital! One of the best ways to treat migraines is to try to prevent it like making changes in your diet if certain food brings up an episode (coffee and alcohol are some examples), reducing stress, and removing yourself from triggers that can bring upon an attack. If the pain persists, you may need to consult with a doctor.

#3 Cluster Headache
What it feels like: Do you experience pain in just one side of your head and in clusters, like several attacks in a day? That’s a cluster headache, especially if the pain is behind or above the eye or at the temple. Another sign of a cluster headache is that they come in cycles, like every day for weeks or months at a time, and then they go away for months but can come back without any warning.
What causes it: There are no exact causes for it but like all headaches, there are triggers – alcohol, sudden spike in temperature, exercising in hot weather, allergies, irregular sleep.
How to treat it: You can take medication to reduce the incidence and severity of a cluster headache but to really get to the bottom of it, identify what causes them for you. If it is lack of sleep that brings on the stabbing pain, adopt a better sleep habit. If it happens when you overexert yourself at the gym, perhaps cut down your gym time but make it more regular?

#4 Caffeine Headache
What it feels like: A dull, throbbing pain at the temples. You also feel a pressure like something is trying to push outwards from your brain.
What causes it: A pretty common headache at the office! It’s interesting that both drinking too little and too much coffee can bring on the caffeine headache. Caffeine narrows the blood vessels surrounding your brain. When you stop taking it, the blood vessels expand and can cause pain, triggering withdrawal headaches. But before you chug down that mug of coffee, know that too much coffee can also trigger a headache, especially if you are prone to having migraines and are dehydrated!
How to treat it: The key is moderation. If you notice you have more headaches when you drink more coffee, cut back. If you are trying to cut the amount of coffee you take daily, scale down slowly instead of going completely off it. The trick is to find a nice balance of how much caffeine to have in a day.

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash.

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