It’s unusual to find a person who doesn’t suffer the occasional headache. Most of us have felt the throbbing of a tension headache or the sharp spike of an ice-cream headache. Hunger, hangovers, toothache, stress and sinus pain can all lead to headaches.
Headaches are very common. In the absence of major studies on headache in Australia, we have to extrapolate from overseas studies but we estimate that Australia has:
- Around 7 million people living with tension headaches
- Nearly 5 million people who suffer from migraines.
The Impact of Headaches and Migraine
Do you remember how awful you felt last time you got a cold? Your eyes were weepy, your nose was blocked, you were shivering and aching all over…but it was ‘just a cold’.
Headaches are a bit like that. It’s easy to minimise their impact because it’s ‘just a headache’. And yet, living with regular headaches or migraines can have a significant impact on your life.
The American Migraine Study of 30,000 Americans found that 51 per cent reported they were less than half as productive as usual when suffering from migraine, and approximately 31 per cent had missed a day at work or school in the previous month.
Nearly all migraine sufferers and about 60% of people who live with tension headaches say these conditions cause them to reduce social activities and affect their ability to work. The accounting firm Deloitte estimates that migraines cost the Australian economy over $35 billion per year including health expenses and lost productivity.
Let’s look at four different types of headaches.
A whopping 7 million Australians suffer from tension headaches. One of the triggers is known to be stress, something many Aussies – 4.9 million, if we are to go by a 2017 Medibank survey – are familiar with. It’s no surprise that lack of sleep, work and financial pressures are right up there as the top issues that play on our minds.
- Dull and persistent pain
- Tightness or a compressing feeling on the head, a bit like a tight band
- Restriction and tightness of neck movement
- Pressure between the eyes.
There’s usually a trigger (or two!) that sets off your tension headache so it’s worth paying attention to your day and noting common factors that precede a headache. Triggers include certain foods, computer use, driving, tiredness, poor posture or dehydration.
Migraines can be very debilitating. These are intense, throbbing or pulsing headaches usually felt on one side only. If you suffer from migraine, you might notice that:
- It gets worse with activity and better with rest
- It may make you vomit or feel nauseous
- It may make you more sensitive to light, noise or smell.
Migraine can affect children but most sufferers are in their 30s or 40s. Women are more likely to experience migraines than men, and the frequency and severity of symptoms are linked to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.
Sinus headaches cause pain in your sinuses, the little passages behind your nose, eyes and forehead. With a sinus headache, you’ll probably feel:
- Soreness or pressure in your cheeks or forehead
- Pain that worsens if you bend or lie down
- A blocked nose or an aching upper jaw.
Sinus headaches are often the result of inflamed sinuses due to allergies or infections (sinusitis). Your sinuses often settle themselves without treatment but some people find that they can prevent sinus headaches by reducing congestion, for example by avoiding allergens or getting some aerobic exercise.
Cluster headaches come on quickly, without warning, and often begin with intense pain behind one eye. The pain usually affects only one side of your face, causing redness, swelling, teariness, sweating or droopiness on that side.
Cluster headaches are called that because they come in bouts or clusters. You may be headache free for a long period then struck by a cluster of headaches that may:
- Happen several times a day
- Last from 15 minutes to three hours
- Wake you up at night.
How Osteopathy May Improve Headaches
However your headache manifests itself, an Osteopath at Relinque Sports and Spinal Group may be able to help you. In our experience, the most important aspect of managing any headache is performing the correct diagnosis, and we’ll take the time to identify the root cause of yours – just as we have for the thousands of people we’ve been treating over the last twenty years.
From there, we’ll recommend treatment and work with you to eliminate the underlying cause, whether it’s related to muscle tension and overuse, posture, stress and anxiety, fatigue, or as a result of restricted neck or upper-back movement.
If you want to know more about how we can help your headache, give Relinque Sports and Spinal a call on 03 9499 9644.