By Emsie Martin
With all the tension and anxiety that people are exposed to in these times, headache is no stranger. Headache does not care about your profession or what your trade is. Neither does it ask what activities children engage in, headache can turn your whole day upside down. Sometimes it affects your health, your family and also your work.
After a few hours at work it feels as if your eyes are going to drop out of your head and you have that pounding pain that refuses to go away despite your best efforts. To many people it is not strange to keep a migraine kit in their handbags.
Did you know that there are several types of headache?
“Headaches occur when the blood vessels and nerves around your brain overreact to your body’s chemical messages and can be caused by anything from stress to hormonal changes,” explains Dr Juliet McGrattan from Britain.
According to Dr Yaseen Yacoob, specialist neurologist at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg, a tension headache feels as if somebody is tightening a stiff hoop around your head and this is the most common headache that people experience.
The most common causes are stress, tiredness, strong smells, bright sunlight, suppressed anger, too much or too little sleep, too much time in front of a computer screen as well as certain foods. However, the problem is the times we live in now – everybody is stressing about Covid-19 and all it entails. People sleep poorly and spend much more time in front of computer screens. And most probably you eat unwisely because you work too close to the kitchen and refrigerator.
Solution: Sleep and good eating habits are essential, but methods of stress relief such as deep breathing, yoga and regular exercise (just get up for a few minutes and move away from the computer screen, walk in the garden, get fresh air) all release endorphins that lessen the intensity of headache.
A migraine is much worse than a bad headache. It is that pain that makes you want to lie down in the dark with a cloth over your eyes and wish it would go away. Apart from the unbearable pain, migraines are often accompanied by nausea or vomiting and increased sensitivity to light and sound. This is three times more common among women.
Migraines are probably caused by temporary changes in brain chemicals, nerves and blood vessels. Genetics play a role, but it “… it is seldom one or two factors, but rather a combination of different causes that brings about the pain,” says Fayyad Ahmed, a neurologist at the British Association for the Study of Headache in Brittain.
Solution: Keep a headache diary to help you identify the problem. Talk to your family doctor about a prescription or a referral. “Regular exercise can also help by literally clearing your head,” says Dr McGrattan.
There are also other headaches:
Unbearable shooting pains on one side of the head, often around an eye. This headache cannot be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. Ask your family doctor about specialised treatment.
Yes, the very same pills you take for your headache could be the cause. Approximately 40% of the patients who visit the national Migraine Centre in Britain have problems with headaches due to the overuse of medication. If you regularly use painkillers more than twice a week you can become a victim of this headache.
An infection of the sinus lining can cause a dull, throbbing pain. Over-the-counter decongestants such as nasal sprays or nose drops can help to open your nose and give relief. Another option is to rinse your nose with a saline nasal spray solution.
Strict diets that cause low blood sugar like the 5:2 diet or low-calorie eating plan can also be a cause. Dehydration is another common cause.
When is it serious?
A headache is usually no reason for worry, but in rare cases it can be a symptom of a stroke, meningitis or a brain tumour. That is why it is important to see the danger signs. If you notice the following, get medical advice as soon as possible:
- a sudden blinding pain, worse than anything you have previously experienced
- an intense, constant headache that does not go away and even becomes worse
- when a headache suddenly starts as a result of a coughing or sneezing bout, or physical exertion
- if it is accompanied by fever, a stiff neck, a rash or poor vision
The best advice is to see a neurologist, who can then work out a plan with you for making short shrift of your headaches.
To avoid unnecessary tension, have a look at Solidarity’s occupational guilds. It is a community that not only strengthens you in your profession, but a community where you feel at home, work together and learn together. It is a community that focuses on protecting the profession, creating career opportunities for young people, acting as a watchdog for the profession, and finding workable solutions to challenges. Visit https://gildes.solidariteit.co.za/ to find out more.
Contact The Headache Clinic at 0861 678 911 or 021 595 1091 or WhatsApp 076 161 7583