For some unfortunate people, headaches are more than an occasional inconvenience. They can be persistent and debilitating, and a person suffering from severe headaches may need medical assistance to overcome them. Headaches can stem from a variety of different causes, but the physiological basis of most headaches is similar, regardless of their triggering cause.
Causes of Headaches
The trigeminal nerve is a nerve cluster located in the stem of the brain, with branches of nerves reaching around to your face. This nerve can release bursts of chemicals which signal pain, which in normal circumstances would trigger, in turn, a response in the form of released serotonin, which is a hormone that counteracts pain signals. In a person whose serotonin reaction is sluggish, the pain signals win out, resulting in a crushing headache. This slow reaction of serotonin production may be related to conditions like depression or sleep disorders, in which case a medical treatment for the underlying disorder can address the serotonin issue and relieve the occurrence of headaches.
Serotonin isn’t the answer to every headache, however. They can also result from muscular tension, from the hormones released in reaction to emotions of anxiety or stress, or to environmental factors like glaring light, excessive noise, or even odors. Headaches can be triggered by some substances found in foods, such as MSG, caffeine, alcohol,nitrites, and tannins found in red wines. Lack of water (dehydration) and lack of sleep can also result in headaches.
Another possible cause can be prescription medications, or even vitamins, being taken by the headache sufferer. Some classes of drugs intended for hypertension or heart issues, for contraception, for seizure prevention, and other issues can actually result in side effects of headaches. This is particularly common among drugs affecting hormones (like contraceptives), which can interfere with the body’s usual hormonal responses to pain.
An important first step in treating chronic headaches is the identification of the specific cause of that individual’s headache. If there is a triggering or causal factor, steps should be taken to eliminate or reduce the effects of that trigger, which should in turn relieve the recurrence of headaches. A person may need to sleep longer or drink more water, avoid caffeine or alcohol, or even talk with a doctor about a change of prescription medications.
If your headaches are related to emotional stress, counseling and/or anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications may go a long way toward relieving the headache problem. An effective approach can be undertaking relaxation methods like yoga or meditation to relieve muscle tension and the adverse effects of your sympathetic nervous system’s responses to stress. Yoga has been proven to increase circulation, release muscle tension, and help the body to restore balance to hormonal reactions to stress.It may be important to make time in your schedule to ensure you’re getting enough sleep, to set aside time for light exercise, or even to add some simple stretches (particularly of the neck muscles) at several points of your day.