Heading a Talk About Headaches:

A Discussion With Dr. Gupta

Dr. Isha Gupta is a neurologist and my valued colleague at IGEA Brain & Spine. I sat down with Dr. Gupta to discuss one of her areas of expertise: headache disorders.

Q. Tell me, what are some of the more common types of headaches?

A. Though there are 150 different types of headaches, the most common include tension-type headaches, migraines and medication-overuse headaches (MOH). Other headache disorders include:

  • Hormone headaches that affect women during any hormonal change, such as during menstruation, pregnancy or taking birth control pills
  • Mixed headache syndrome, a combination of tension and migraine headaches
  • Sinus headaches, which occur when the sinuses become inflamed and cause pain in parts of the face

Q. What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

A. As stated, a migraine is actually a type of headache (contrary to popular belief that they’re two separate conditions). It presents as a throbbing or pounding sensation, typically on only one side of the head. A migraine is usually accompanied by symptoms such as sensitivity to light or sound and vision changes.

Q. What are some common triggers for headache disorders?

A. Headaches can be triggered by a number of things depending on the type of headache. Some more common triggers can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar level
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Tension in the muscles of the body or back, likely due to poor posture
  • Too much or too little sleeping
  • Too much or too little physical activity

Q. What are some of the treatments available for headache disorders?

A. Though treatments depend on the individual and their needs, I think a good place to start is usually by implementing some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Abstaining from alcohol
  • Seeking help to manage your stress or anxiety
  • Keeping your weight under control
  • Engaging in more physical activity, like an exercise routine

Should these changes fail to relieve your symptoms, medications such as analgesics, anti-migraine/seizure drugs or antiemetics may also be prescribed in combination with the lifestyle changes you have made. Botox injections have also risen in popularity for effectively treating chronic migraines.

Also, for those in search of some alternative methods of treatment, lavender may offer a similar effect to certain relaxing pharmaceuticals (though, more research needs be done in this area). There is also evidence to suggest that acupuncture may be good for certain headache types—such as tension-type headaches—as well.

If you suspect you’re suffering from a headache disorder, it’s a good idea to start keeping a headache diary. Some things to include are:

  • Everything consumed before the onset of the headache
  • How intense the pain is, what time of day it occurs and how long it lasts
  • How much sleep you got the night before
  • The date and time the headache started
  • What medications you’re currently on, as well as their side effects

The headache diary will help you to understand your triggers and help your primary care physician or neurologist determine what the best course of treatment might be for you.

It’s important to understand that headaches are not something to be taken lightly. If you find yourself living with the effects of a headache disorder, speak to your physician about seeing a neurologist for further treatment, or contact our specialists at IGEA Brain & Spine today for an appointment.

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