Tension Headache:

Dull pressure or tightness
Both sides of head and sometimes on neck
30 minutes to a full week
Infrequent to daily
Fatigue, sensation of rigid band circling and pressing on the head.

Tension headaches, often referred to as stress headaches, are the most common type of headaches among adults. Chronic tension headaches recur over a prolonged period of time, usually in the form of throbbing in the front, top, or sides of the head. Although the pain may vary in intensity throughout the day, the pain is almost always present. They are not known to affect vision, balance, or strength, but they do affect our ability to function in a healthy, happy manner. According to statistics, women are twice as likely to suffer from tension-type headaches as men.

Though there is no single cause for tension headaches, it is likely is some to be caused by tightened muscles in the back of the neck and scalp. This muscle tension may be a result of:

• Inadequate rest
• Poor posture
• Emotional or mental stress, including depression
• Anxiety
• Fatigue
• Hunger
• Overexertion

Tension headaches are often triggered by environmental or internal stress. The most common sources of stress include family, social relationships, friends, work, and school. In other words, everyday life experiences and responsibilities.

Another form of tension headache is episodic tension headaches, usually triggered by a single stressful situation or a build-up of stress. Prolonged daily stressors can lead to chronic tension headaches.

People with tension headaches commonly report these symptoms:

• Mild to moderate pain or pressure affecting the front, top or sides of the head
• Headache occurring later in the day
• Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
• Chronic fatigue
• Irritability
• Disturbed concentration
• Mild sensitivity to light or noise
• General muscle aching

Treatments most often recommended by doctors:

• Pain relievers
• Muscle relaxants
• Antidepressants
• Others
• Avoiding or minimizing the causes or triggers
• Stress management/relaxation training
• Biofeedback
• Home treatments

Some doctors may recommend preventive treatments such as drugs used to keep you from getting a tension headache in the first place. These include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and anti-seizure medications. The prolonged use of medications may lose their effectiveness. It is important to consider the side effects of usage. Though pain medications can be a temporary solution to help alleviate pain, recognizing and dealing with the stressors that may be causing the headaches, will help bring long-term permanent healing. The drugs may temporarily ease the pain, but it is vitally important to understand what these drugs are and how they will impact the health of your body.

Cluster Headaches:

Sharp, boring, severe pain developing rapidly within minutes
One sided, usually around or behind the eye
15-180 minutes
One or more daily during clusters
Nasal congestion, runny nostril, tearing on one side, redness of eye, a feeling of agitation

Cluster headaches often occur in the middle of the night, wakening sufferers from their sleep, which is why it is also called; “alarm clock headache.” Though cluster headaches are not known to be life threatening, they are one of the most painful types of headache, described as sharp, penetrating or burning. People often report that unlike migraine headaches, lying down increases the pain.

Cluster periods,(bouts of frequent attacks) The duration of these headaches varies widely. They may last weeks or even months. Then they may mysteriously disappear completely for a few weeks and sometimes years before recurring. Cluster headaches can appear out of nowhere, without warning. Symptoms may include:

• Excruciating pain around the eye or areas of the face, head, neck and shoulders
• One-sided pain
• Restlessness
• Excessive tearing of the eyes
• Redness in the eye of the affected side
• Stuffy or runny nasal passage in the nostril on the affected side of your face
• Sweaty, pale skin on the face
• Swelling around the eye on the affected side of your face
• Reduced pupil size
• Drooping eyelid

Though cluster periods may vary, they are generally reported to last 6 to 12 weeks. They often occur seasonally in the spring or fall. Episodic cluster headaches appear to be the most common, occurring for one week to a year. Then a remission period with no pain before it recurs.

It is interesting to note that studies have detected increased activity in the hypothalamus during the occurrence of cluster headaches. It is thought that abnormalities of the hypothalamus may explain the timing and cyclical nature of cluster headache, which typically occur at the same time during a 24 hour day, and the cycle of cluster periods often occur during certain seasons of the year.

If the bodies biological clock, located in the hypothalamus deep in the center of the brain is involved in the occurrence of cluster headaches, we must then ask ourselves what is affecting the hypothalamus. Though some studies report that cluster headaches generally are not associated with triggers, such as foods, hormonal changes or stress, research scientists have shown that prolonged stress can shrink the hypothalamus.

It is reported there is no cure for cluster headaches. The goal of treatment in the medical industry is to help decrease the severity of pain, shorten the headache period and prevent the attacks. It is also reported over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen aren’t effective because the headache is usually gone before the drug starts working. Yet, most cluster headaches last 15-180 minutes.

Most commonly prescribed treatments include:

• Oxygen
• Triptans. The injectable form of sumatriptan (Imitrex)
• Zolmitriptan (Zomig)
• Octreotide (Sandostatin, Octreotide Acetate).
• Local anesthetics
• Dihydroergotamine
• Calcium channel blockers.
• Corticosteroids. (serious side effects make them inappropriate for long-term use)
• Lithium carbonate. Lithium (Lithobid)
• Nerve block
• Ergots. Ergotamine (Ergomar)
• Melatonin
• Anti-seizure medications such as divalproex (Depakote) and topiramate (Topamax).
• Surgery

Note: Though rare, surgical procedures for cluster headache are sometimes administered as a solution for cluster headaches. This surgical procedure attempts to damage the trigeminal nerve pathways that serves the area behind and around your eye, thought to be responsible for the headaches.

Other treatments:

A device reportedly is being developed to stimulate the occipital nerve, which influences the trigeminal nerve. It is a pacemaker-sized device that is implanted over the occipital nerve that sends impulses via electrodes. Other research is being conducted for the implantation of a stimulator in the hypothalamus which administers deep brain stimulation.

It has been reported in surveys fewer than 10% of those who have tried alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic touch, chiropractic and homeopathy, found them to be effective. This would make sense if the root of the problem is not being addressed. Further research into the effects of stress on the hypothalamus is vitally important. Our bodies are meant to function according to our body clocks and if our clocks are not functioning properly then our bodies will suffer. If our bodies are physically suffering, our mental state and emotional well-being is also at risk.

Migraine Headaches

Modern to severe throbbing
60% one side 40% both sides
4-72 hours
Recurrent with widely variable frequency
Symptoms:
Nausea, vomiting, light and sound and smell sensitivity, increasing pain with routine physical activity.

Those suffering from migraines report intense throbbing in one area of the head. Often  nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound are also reported. Migraine suffers often report severe pain that lasts for hours, even days. In addition, migraines sufferers can experience flashes of light, tingling in the extemeties, and blind spots in their vision,  known as  “Aura”.

Some sufferers begin experiencing migraine headaches in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. There are four stages some, but not all experience:

Prodrome:

The following symptoms may occur one or two days before a migraine:

• Constipation
• Depression
• Diarrhea
• Food cravings
• Hyperactivity
• Irritability
• Neck stiffness

Aura

Auras are visual, sensory, motor or verbal disturbances. They are not common amongst most migraine sufferers. The following symptoms often begin gradually, building up within minutes. They typically last between10 to 30 minutes:

• Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
• Vision loss
• Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
• Speech or language problems
• Aphasia
• Weakness in the limbs

Attack

An untreated migraine attack can last 4 to 72 hours. The frequency with which they occur varies widely from person to person and the existing conditions. The following are some of the more common symptoms:

• Pain on one side of your head
• Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
• Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells
• Nausea and vomiting
• Blurred vision
• Diarrhea
• Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

Postdrome

Postdrome occurs after the attack. This often results in exhaustion.  Some report feeling slightly euphoric but this is not common.

Causes and Triggers

According to some medical reports and research, migraines may be caused by changes to the brainstem which affect the trigeminal nerve. Imbalances in the brain chemical serotonin is also thought to be a culprit becaues it regulates pain in the nervous system. When serotonin levels drop during migraines, it is thought to trigger the trigeminal system to release neuropeptides. Neuropeptides then travel to the meninges, the brain’s outer covering, causings headache pain.

Note: Recently I was seeking alternative treatment for my brothers seizures. I found a chiropractor/naturopath who performs a treatment called “Nasal Specific” to treat seizures, migraines, and a host of other ailments. This treatment is based on the re-positioning of skull plates in our head that get displaced during injury or trauma to the head thereby placing pressure on areas of the brain resulting in seizures, migraines, etc. The skull plates are manipulated back in to place relieving the condition, often permanently. As stated earlier, it is important to make sure there are no physical problems before making the assertion it is due entirely to stress.

Triggers may include the following:

Hormonal changes, fluctuations in estrogen in women (before/during periods)
Pregnancy or menopause.
Hormonal medications such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy
Physical or emotional Stress
Bright lights and sun glare
Loud noise
Smells (perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke, etc
Change in sleep patterns
Physical exertion
Changes in weather
Oral contraceptives
Vasodilators (nitroglycerin)

Food, drink, and preservatives: such as
chocolate;
aspartame;
caffeine;
MSG,
Any processed, fermented, pickled, or marinated food
Baked goods
Chocolate
Dairy products
Tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and certain beans)
Fruits (avocado, banana, citrus fruit)
Meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats)
Nuts
Onions
Peanut butter

When looking at this list of foods,  it might at first appear to be hopeless.  But is it really? When we consider that most food and beverage products are either sprayed with pesticides and poisons, smothered in toxic food additives and preservatives, and /or GMO’d to the point of being unrecognizable as actual food, it is no wonder our bodies are rebelling. Add poisonous flouride and heavy metals in our water, and  whatever it is being sprayed across our skies, it is a wonder we still live at all.

Add to this the long list of prescription drugs, proven to have long-term side effects and we have a lethal cocktail bombarding our poor bodies relentlessly.  The human body is magnificient. It is more than capable of healing itself when given the proper nutrition and when placed in a natural environment.

This is not to say we don’t need doctors. They certainly have their place, however, we cannot expect our bodies to function correctly when bombarding them with toxic chemicals and overloading them with stress, physical or emotional. Detoxing our bodies and making some lifestyle changes to bring down our stress levels will go along way toward eliminating, or at least alleviating many of these symptoms.

We now live in a world full of chemicals, electromagnetic interference, environmental pollution, and major economic stressors. Our bodies will eventually break down and get sick, they need some relief in order to heal.

Many people have found great relief from a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms when refraining from fast food, flouridated water, excessive use of alcohol, smoking, and prescription drugs such as anti-depressants. It is a choice we must all make individually. But knowing what one is putting in their body is a great place to start. First one must make a decision to heal and a committment to learning and applying knew knowledge to their current lifestyle.

I have been told by some it is just too hard. They love their fast food and soft drinks and don’t think they can give them up. This is their choice. When I began my journey on the road to a healthier life style, I hated the idea of eating raw vegetables. At first I tried to go cold turkey and just stopped eating fast food. This did not work. Soon I was gorging more on the garbage than before I stopped eating it. I was ashamed of myself for failing.

Eventually, I tried again but this time slowly weaned myself off of it. I accomplished this by replacing the fries with veggies. I made a mental note of how I felt after eating and definitely felt a rise in my energy. It felt good. Over time, I added more veggies and eliminated the bun from the burger and replaced the soda with filtered water. Eventually I stopped buying fast food and made my own burger using grass fed beef from our local farmers. I now eat all organic consisting of lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. My health has improved tremendously and I have much more energy.

Next: “Stress 101: Stress Reactions”