Headache

Some of the main types of headaches and common causes of headaches are described below.

Tension headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are what we think of as normal, "everyday" headaches. They feel like a constant ache that affects both sides of the head, as though a tight band is stretched around it.

A tension headache normally won't be severe enough to prevent you doing everyday activities. They usually last for 30 minutes to several hours, but can last for several days.

The exact cause is unclear, but tension headaches have been linked to things such as stress, poor posture, skipping meals and dehydration.

Tension headaches can often be treated with ordinary painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and osteopathy can help with some of the causes of these headaches. Lifestyle changes, such as getting regular sleep, reducing stress and staying well hydrated, may also help.

Migraines
Migraines are less common than tension headaches. They're usually felt as a severe, throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Some people also have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

Migraines tend to be more severe than tension headaches and can stop you carrying out your normal daily activities. They usually last at least a couple of hours, and some people find they need to stay in bed for days at a time.

Again, osteopathy can help with some of the causes of these headaches. Most people can treat their migraines successfully with over-the-counter medication. But if they're severe, you may need stronger medication that's only available on prescription. This may be able to relieve and prevent your migraines.

Medication and painkiller headaches
Some headaches are a side effect of taking a particular medication. Frequent headaches can also be caused by taking too many painkillers. This is known as a painkiller or medication-overuse headache.

A medication-overuse headache will usually get better within a few weeks once you stop taking the painkillers that are causing it, although your pain may get worse for a few days before it starts to improve.

Hormone headaches
Headaches in women are often caused by hormones, and many women notice a link with their periods. The combined contraceptive pill, the menopause and pregnancy are also potential triggers.

Reducing your stress levels, having a regular sleeping pattern, and ensuring you don't miss meals may help reduce headaches associated with your menstrual cycle.

Other causes of headaches
Headaches can also have a number of other causes, including:

There are several reasons for headaches. Most are not serious and once the cause is established headaches can often be helped by simple changes in lifestyle. One cause can be tension or strain in the muscles and joints of the neck and upper back.

Treatment from an osteopath may help. Gentle massage to the tight muscles and manipulation to loosen the joints of the neck, thorax and back can relieve the build-up of muscular tension that may lead to headaches. Osteopaths can also advise on exercise and lifestyle changes and offer guidance on simple changes to your posture when at work or driving which may also be of benefit.

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