You don’t have to live with frequent headaches. Relief may seem difficult and even impossible but it’s not.
“When headaches are interfering with your life on a regular basis, it’s time to get help,” said David P. Roeltgen, M.D., a behavioral neurologist at Cooper University Hospital. “Even if you’ve had headaches for many years, we can relieve them.”
Types of chronic headaches include migraine, cluster, tension and inflammatory:
- Migraines are the most common, affecting as many as 30 million Americans, and three out of four sufferers are female. Up to 80 percent of all people with these headaches have a family history. Migraines involve intense, throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head. Often sensitivity to light or noise and an upset stomach can be signs. Attacks can last hours or several days and be as often as a several times a week or as few as once a year.
- Cluster headaches cause repeated episodes of severe pain that last an hour or two, usually at night. They can occur one to three times a day during a cluster period, which may last two weeks to three months. The pain centers around one eye and may also include nasal congestion.
- Tension headaches usually produce a steady ache in both sides of the head.
- Inflammatory, or intracranial, headaches are caused by pressure within the head or skull from another problem, such as a sinus infection or brain tumor. Symptoms include a dull aching pain and pressure that often starts early in the day.
“The patient plays a role in treating headaches,” Dr. Roeltgen said. “He or she must get into a mindset in which the headache becomes less of an issue, rather than the focal point of life.”
Treatment plans may include medications, goals based on your lifestyle and preferences, identification of headache triggers, and education about avoiding or reducing triggers.
After identifying what sets off a headache, Dr. Roeltgen teaches you how to avoid or reduce these causes. This could be as simple as having a consistent bedtime or avoiding certain foods. For other triggers such as stress, Dr. Roeltgen may recommend relaxation techniques or refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. If you have neck pain, Dr. Roeltgen might suggest neck exercises or physical therapy.
Over-the-counter or prescription medications can ease or prevent headaches. Pain relievers include ibuprofen (Motrin®), acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or triptans (Imitrex® or Zomig®). Taking a triptan when a migraine starts can stop the headache process.
Effective medications can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches and migraines. Dr. Roeltgen may suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers or anticonvulsants.
You don’t have to live with chronic headaches. Schedule an appointment with a Cooper physician by calling 1-800-8-COOPER (800-826-6737).