More than half of all Germans at least occasionally have this experience: the head is buzzing, threatening to burst, affecting our well-being up to the unbearable. Often the complaints come from nowhere. Those who only occasionally have to deal with a headache can usually help themselves with a cup of coffee with lemon, a relaxation bath or over-the-counter painkillers from the pharmacy. People who are constantly dealing with headaches need medical attention. The success of a treatment depends on knowing what type of headache it is.
The most common headache types
Experts know more than 160 different headache types. The most common forms include tension-type headache and migraine. About 33 million Germans suffer from tension headaches, migraines or a combination of both. Typical of tension-type headaches are dull, aching pains. Mostly the entire head is affected. Movement improves the symptoms.
In contrast, the symptoms of migraine are predominantly half-sided and throbbing, pulsating character. Every movement becomes a torment. Frequently, affected people retire to a darkened room, seeking rest and relaxation. Since it is important for successful treatment to know the type of headache and its triggers as accurately as possible, patients who are constantly suffering from headaches should keep a diary. It records the duration, intensity, type of headache, and possible triggers. In addition, it should be noted which medicines were used and if they helped.
The causes are many
Sitting for hours in a wrong posture, psychosocial stress at work or in the family, working in bad light or in bad air, lack of sleep and smoking - these are just some of the possible causes of constant tension-type headaches.
Bodily deformity can lead, for example, to cramping of the back muscles. The muscles are constantly sending small pain impulses to the brain. A pain filter in the brain rejects these minor impulses as insignificant. But by the constant use of this filter messenger substances such as serotonin are used up. The pain impulses pass unhindered to the brain. Man feels a headache. Tension headaches are more common in the family.
In addition, headaches can be the result of another illness. The symptoms often occur after cranial injuries, infection, vascular disorders, head and facial neuralgia, by substance effects (eg alcohol, sodium glutamate) and head and facial pain in diseases.
The doctor must know that from you
People who are constantly dealing with headaches should not delay a doctor's visit too long. Pain can become chronic and then have poorer therapeutic options. To get an indication of the cause of the headache as quickly as possible, a well-managed headache journal is very helpful for the doctor. Patients who do not keep a journal should be able to provide information about any illness that persists and about the medicines taken regularly.
It is important for the doctor whether other family members also have a headache, how long the symptoms are, how often they occur, if and how the pain is announced, when the headache starts, and if triggering factors are known. It is also important in women if there is a connection with menstruation. It is also important to know the exact location of the pain and be able to describe the strength.
The doctor has a scale available for assessing the level of pain, which makes it easier for those affected to describe the intensity. Further questions of the physician relate to side effects of headache, such as nausea, vomiting, speech disorders, odor sensitivity or dizziness. If patients already know what's best for them, the doctor should know that too.
This helps with headaches
For occasional mild to moderate tension headaches, the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG) recommends a combination of the active ingredients acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), paracetamol and caffeine as a first-line drug. The combination of these active ingredients in a tablet leads to a mutual reinforcement of the beneficial effects. Paracetamol, for example, improves the anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects of ASA. Caffeine improves the analgesic effect of ASA and paracetamol. Combination preparations also work faster and start at different sites of action. In addition, they are better tolerated because the individual active ingredients can be dosed lower in combined preparations.
For the treatment of a mild migraine attack according to the recommendations of the DMKG acetylsalicylic acid and paracetamol are suitable as individual substances or in a fixed combination with caffeine and ibuprofen. For very severe attacks, the group of prescription triptans is used. Triptans act directly on the blood vessels of the brain, where the pain originates. Strong and chronic headaches are in the hands of pain therapists.
Apply pain medication correctly
Since the too frequent, uncontrolled use of painkillers can cause even headaches, the DMKG warns: headache and migraine remedies should be taken at most ten days a month and a maximum of three consecutive days. Those who constantly suffer from headaches should try to reduce the use of painkillers by preventing them.
That's how you can prevent
The intensity and frequency of headaches can be positively influenced by regular endurance sports. Jogging, swimming or cycling are particularly suitable. Targeted relaxation exercises also help relieve headaches. The progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen, autogenic training and yoga have proved successful.
That too can help ...
Anyone who knows the trigger of the symptoms can try to achieve a pain relief by avoiding the triggering factors. Many people benefit from a stimulus shield in the darkened, quiet room. Also, distraction or imagining a pleasant situation can help. Some patients prefer acupuncture, others prefer massages with essential oils, acupressure, moist cold compresses or alternating foot baths. For these methods: Try it!