Dealing With Headaches

Headaches are a common issue faced by many, and the intensity can range from being mild to having a lasting impact.

As we live in the digital age and are constantly surrounded by technology, the prevalence of headaches in daily life has increased.

With over 150 different types of headaches, the reasons for its cause can vary from person to person, depending on lifestyle choices, triggers like extended hours of screen time, diets, medical issues and more.

Medical professionals from hospitals in Dubai share some insight with Connector into dealing with headaches.

Headaches are commonly felt in the head or in the face and can affect a person in various ways. As it is caused by a cluster of nerves, starting from the face to the shoulders,the ache can begin in the head and further travelling to other places.

According to Dr Ruhil Badiani, Family Physician at Cornerstone Clinic, "A headache is a pain or discomfort in the head or face. They can occur in a variety of different areas or even all over and the head and can be throbbing, sharp or dull and can be constant or come and go. The brain tissue does not have pain-sensitive nerve fibres and does not feel pain. But, other parts of the head can be responsible for a headache, including a network of nerves that extends over the scalp, certain nerves in the face, mouth, and throat, muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders and blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain."

As the duration and intensity of the headaches can be sporadic and depend on the type of headache, with some lasting an entire day to some coming and going, if it is a recurring issue, visit a doctor to assess the reason behind them. 

Dr Hoda Makkawi, Anti-Aging Medicine Specialist and Consultant for Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine at Euromed Clinic Dubai said, "While they can be discombobulating, headaches are rarely a sign of a serious or sinister underlying condition. That said, if you have a prolonged headache, one that is particularly severe or that stops your regular activities or negatively impacts your emotional or physical well-being then you should seek medical advice."

Headaches are classified into two types, primary and secondary, with primary headaches being the common type caused by several triggers, including food and dehydration.

Dr Ruhil Badiani at Cornerstone Clinic said, "A primary headache means the headache itself is the main medical problem, although other factors, such as muscle tension or exposure to certain foods, may be identified. Other contributing factors include medicines, dehydration, or hormone changes."

Secondary headaches are caused by injury or a medical condition, with Dr Hoda Makkawi of Euromed Clinic Dubai adding, "Secondary headaches include chronic tension headache, caused by muscle tension in the back of the neck and affect women more commonly than men. In other instances, headaches can be caused by sinusitis. The sinuses are 'holes' in the skull which are present to stop the head from being too heavy for the neck to support. They are lined with mucous membranes, but if these become thickened and infected, they can lead to headaches."

Some of the common types of primary headaches are tension headaches, which can be felt in the forehead as well as migraines, which show up in the form of throbbing pain. Dr Hoda Makkawi of Euromed Clinic Dubai said, "Tension headaches manifest as a band of pain across the forehead. They tend to worsen as the day progresses and may cause sensitivity to bright light or noise. A migraine causes a throbbing pain that makes you feel physically sick."

Migraines usually occur along with nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and visual disturbances and can make it difficult for people experiencing them to continue with regular tasks.

Each person experiencing a migraine feels it in a different way, as it manifests in various phases, Dr Ruhil Badiani at Cornerstone Clinic explained four of the phases, "Premonition or prodromal phase, a change in mood or behaviour may occur hours or days before the headache. Aura phase, during which a group of visual, sensory, or motor symptoms can precede the headache. Examples include vision changes, hallucinations, numbness, changes in speech, and muscle weakness. Headache phase, which is the period during the actual headache with throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. Sensitivity to light and motion are common, as are depression, fatigue, and anxiety. Resolution phase, where the pain lessens during this phase but may be replaced with fatigue, irritability, and trouble concentrating. Some people feel refreshed after an attack, others do not."

As headaches can cause hindrances to daily life, there are multiple ways to deal with them and alleviate the pain, including,

Getting sleep: Sleep plays a vital role in the overall well-being of a person, and it is crucial to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. If suffering from constant headaches, sleep can be a significant contributor to getting respite from it and preventing further headaches. Dr Ruhil Badiani at Cornerstone Clinic said, "Migraines and many of the other types of headaches can be triggered by lack of sleep. Aim to get 7 - 9 hours of good quality sleep per night."

Screen time: Prolonged hours while staring at a screen, be it a mobile phone or a laptop, can lead to headaches. As many people are constantly looking at screens, it is vital to take the time to look away every half an hour for five minutes to avoid straining eyes. Dr Hoda Makkawi of Euromed Clinic Dubai also added, "Avoid screen time like TV, computers and more before bed." While staring at a screen right before bed, can lead to restless and disturbed sleep, which in the long run can cause constant headaches as well as fatigue.

Staying hydrated: Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and occurs when there is less fluid in the body than required. A crucial way to avoid dehydration is regularly drinking water and using it as a substitute for juice and soft drinks, as they contain copious amounts of sugar, leaving the individual even more dehydrated. Dr Ruhil Badiani at Cornerstone Clinic said, "Headaches caused by dehydration are common and drinking plenty of water every day can help to reduce the headache occurrence, duration and severity."

Reduce stress levels: With the daily hustle of life, from work to running errands, and with things constantly running through the mind, it can get difficult to make the time during the day to calm and get into a state of relaxation. A great way to manage stress is by doing activities that boost energy levels, whether running at a park or dancing to favourite tunes. Dr Hoda Makkawi of Euromed Clinic Dubai said, "Practice mindfulness, breathing exercises, meditation and yoga." Additionally, calming activities like these, once implemented into daily routine, can help in increasing confidence and coping better under stressful situations, leading to a reduction in the headaches experienced.

Cold compress: An easy way to relieve headaches and minimise the pain is through cold compress. To create a cold compress, take a dry cloth and place either ice cubes or a frozen bag of vegetables and keep it on the head to alleviate the headache. Dr Ruhil Badiani at Cornerstone Clinic mentioned that, "Applying cold or frozen compresses to your neck or head area decreases inflammation, slows nerve conduction, and constricts blood vessels, all of which could help reduce headache pain."

Headaches are a relatively common problem that causes hindrances to daily life, be it while out with friends and family or working.

Though there are various ways to cope with and manage regular headaches without the need to worry, if they are persistent, it is advised to seek medical help.

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