The definition of a headache is pain that is arising from the upper neck or head. This pain comes from the tissues and other structures surrounding the brain because the brain actually has no nerves that the sensation of pain can come from.
In other words, no pain fibers. The pain results when the muscles that surround the skull, eyes, ears, and sinuses, and the meninges covering the spinal cord, brain veins, nerves, and arteries become irritated or inflamed and. The pain can range from a very dull ache to an intense ache and can be short term, constant, throbbing, or sharp.
Classifications of Headaches
The International Headache Society released a classification system for headaches in 2005. There are many people suffering from headaches and treating them can be quite difficult.
It was hoped that this system of classification could assist physicians in making a specific diagnosis as to the type of headache was being experienced, which would allow for better and much more effective treatments. There are three major headache categories, based on where the pain originates:
- Facial Pain, Cranial Neuralgias, and other types of headaches.
Facts about Headaches
The head is actually one of the most common pain sites in the body. As stated above, there are three categories that headaches can be classified into. The most common types of primary headaches are: cluster, migraine, and tension. The most common type of primary headache is tension and are typically treated with OTC pain medications.
Secondary headaches are actually a symptom of an underlying illness or injury. If you ever experience a new onset headache, change in behavior, weakness, changes in sensation, vomiting, fever, or a stiff neck, you should immediately contact your physician for evaluation.
Treatments for Headaches
Of course, treatment for a headache depends on the type of headache you’re experiencing and what is causing the headache. Common OTC and DIY treatments for headaches include:
OTC medication such as ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and acetaminophen is typically one of the first courses of treatment. However, if you prefer to avoid using medications, you should try the following: warm compress, resting quietly in a cool, dark room, and stress management techniques. You can also use pressure points to control and relieve your headaches.
Pressure Points to Relieve Headaches
The World Health Organization says that around 47 percent of adults worldwide suffer from at least one headache in a year. Tension headaches are the most common. Since one of the triggers of tension headaches is muscle tension in the neck or head, applying pressure to certain points around the neck or head could actually help to relive the symptoms of a tension headache.
Some of the pressure points for preventing/relieving tension headaches are: base of the skull, upper trapezius muscle, sternocleidomastoid muscle, and the temporalis muscle. Following are some instructions on how to use these pressure points to your advantage.
Base of the Skull
Take your fingers and touch where the bottom of your skull meets your neck. There, you should find some little indentations. There are many different muscles located there that- when they get tight- can contribute to tension headaches.
Place your thumbs on these indentations and take a deep breath in. Then, as you begin to exhale, press your thumbs into the indentations and lean your head slightly back. This particular pressure point serves to relive many headaches felt in both the back and the front of the head.
Upper Trapezius Muscle
The trapezius muscle is that really large muscle located at the top of your back. This muscle attaches to your upper neck and skull, going down to the middle top of your back and across to your shoulders.
Reach one arm across to the opposite shoulder. Use your fingertips to feel midway between your shoulder and neck and press down. If your upper trapezius muscle is tight, you’re going to feel pain up your neck and around your ear. This pressure point will help to relieve that pain.
The sternocleidomastoid muscle, also known as SCM, attaches from the back of the ear to your breast and collar bone. In order to locate the point that is causing the headache, you should place your right hand on the right side of your neck and turn your head to the left.
The muscle that sticks out is the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Squeeze it very gently as you turn your head back to face the front. Then, take a deep breath in. as you exhale, very slowly and gently give this muscle a squeeze. If your sternocleidomastoid muscle is tight, you’re most likely to feel pain over your eyes and possibly your jaw. Massaging this muscle in this way will help to relieve the pain.
The temporalis muscle is the muscle that runs from the side of the skull to the jaw. Every time you chew or speak, you’re using the temporalis muscle. If this muscle is tight, you’re going to feel pain over your temples, around your eyes, and even in your jaw.
In order to stretch this muscle out, you’re going to place your fingers on your skull just above your ears and behind your temples. Breathe in deeply. Then, as you exhale, very slowly open your mouth, pushing your fingers up toward the top of your skull.
Be aware that if you’re having frequent or constant headaches, that could be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. If you begin to experience confusion, extreme sleepiness, weakness, double vision, red eyes, or a fever you should seek medical attention. Also, if your headache gets worse over time or if you have a sudden, severe headache that develops over a few seconds or minutes.