Understanding headache pain
Headaches start when nerves in the blood vessel, muscles and lining of the brain are irritated. Most headaches start at the back of the head or the neck. But often you feel the pain elsewhere in your head, such as behind your eyes.
What causes headache?
Many things can cause headaches. These include:
- Stress or tension
- Fatigue or lack of sleep
- Poor or flickering lighting or glare
- Incorrect prescription for glasses
- Smoke, odors or fumes
- Food, food additives, alcohol, caffeine or cigarettes
- Sinus problems or allergies
- Changes in weather or altitude
- Changes in hormone levels
- Eye diseases and other illnesses, such as high blood pressure.
What your eye doctor can do for you
If you have a headache, you may feel pain in or around your eyes. Most often the cause is not a problem inside the eyes themselves. But sometimes eyestrain triggers a headache. This can happen if you are under stress, tired or working under poor lighting conditions. Your eye doctor will examine your eyes to rule out an eye problem. He or she will also check your vision to be sure you don’t need glasses or a change in your prescription for your current glasses.
Types of headaches
Which of these headaches sounds most like yours?
- Tension Headaches cause a dull, steady pain on both sides of the head and in the neck and the back of the head. The eyes may also feel tired.
- Migraines and cluster headaches cause intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head. With a migraine, you may have nausea and vomiting and be sensitive to light and sound. You may also have warning signs, such as flashing lights or loss of vision, before pain starts. Cluster headaches recur in groups for days, weeks or months. The pain is centered around or behind one eye
- Sinus headaches can cause a gnawing pain behind the nose and eyes. The pain most often gets worse in the afternoon and evening. You may also run fever
Tension headaches are caused by stress, lack of sleep or eye strain from poor lighting or incorrect glasses.
To help prevent tension headaches
- Take time to relax during the day.
- Make sure your work area has enough lighting and air circulation.
- Identify your stress triggers and try to avoid them.
To relieve the pain, try to relax any tight muscles in the neck and head
- Massage the muscles in the back of the neck and head to increase blood circulation. This helps reduce pain.
- Use moist heat to relax the muscles. Soak in a hot bath or wrap a warm, moist towel around your neck.
- Brush your scalp lightly with a soft hairbrush to relax the muscles.
Migraines and cluster headaches
Migraine ad cluster headaches can have many causes.
To help prevent migraines and cluster headaches
- Don’t eat aged cheese, nuts, beans, chocolate, red wine or foods that contain caffeine or nitrates.
- Don’t work in poor lighting.
To relieve the pain, stay quiet and rest
- Use cold compresses to numb the pain. Wrap ice or a cold can of soda in a cloth. Hold it against the site of pain for 10 minutes. Repeat every 20 minutes.
- Avoid light. Wear dark glasses, turn out lights and close the curtains. When out doors, wer a brimmed hat.
- Drink lots of fluids. Sip caffeine free flat soda to help relieve nausea.
Sinus headaches are caused by colds or allergies that make the nasal passages inflamed or infected
To help prevent sinus headaches
- Treat common colds promptly to keep mucus from building up.
- Avoid things that trigger sinus problems, such as pollen, dust, smoke, fumes and strong odors
To relieve the pain, keep your sinuses open and free of mucus
- Use a nasal decongestant as directed to reduce the inflammation.
- Drink fluids to keep mucus thinner. You can also use a humidifier.
- Apply hot packs to the area round your sinuses. Use a hot water bottle or a hand towel dipped in hot water.
Tips to Reduce Eyestrain
Straining your eyes can trigger a tension headache. To avoid eye strain :
- Wear your glasses as directed by your eye doctor and have your vision checked regularly. When using a computer, make sure you have enough light and that there is no glare on the screen.
- Get enough sleep.