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Published on September 14, 2016

young woman with a headache

Help for Headaches

Whether your head is throbbing, pounding or just plain aching, you’re not alone. In fact, headache is among the top 10 reasons for seeing a doctor.

If headaches are new and different from headaches you’ve had before, or if they impact your way of life or quality of life, it’s a good reason to make an appointment to see your doctor.

If your headache is sudden and severe, go to the emergency room, especially if it’s accompanied by numbness, weakness or visual changes, said Carol Miles-Nelson, MD, neurologist with Avera Medical Group Neurology and the Headache Center. Such symptoms could signal a life-threatening condition, such as an aneurysm or stroke.

Your headache might come and go as the result of reasons such as a stressful day, allergies, an oncoming bout with the flu, or too much time in the heat and humidity.

“Yet ongoing, chronic headaches are undertreated and underdiagnosed,” Miles-Nelson said. Often people treat their own headaches with an over-the-counter remedy, but this can result in even more headaches, known as medication overuse headaches or “rebound” headaches.

Common types of headaches are migraine and tension. There are also eyeGraine headaches, a dull headache that gets worse when reading or working at a computer.

Migraines, with or without aura, can be debilitating, with throbbing pain that typically lasts up to six hours, plus symptoms like nausea, lightheadedness and blurred vision.

Lisa Onken of Reading, Minn., says her 17-year-old daughter Bailey suffers from migraines, which run in the family. Bailey’s headaches involve a lot of pressure in the front of her face, nausea and dizziness. She has another kind of headaches that involve intense ear pressure.

Oral medications prescribed by Miles-Nelson limit the frequency and severity of headaches. “It reduces the pain to a manageable level so she can move on,” Onken said. “It’s also important for her to use a medication that doesn’t make her feel sluggish, so she can concentrate at school.”

“So many people are limping through life due to headaches. It’s hard to concentrate at work and you’re not fully engaged with your family. Headaches can really take over your life,” Miles-Nelson said.

If headaches are like this for you, it’s worth being evaluated. The latest treatments include medications, Botox injections, or an SPG nerve block administered via a thin catheter through the nose. People who have headaches two or more times per week can take preventive therapy every day to prevent or lessen the severity of headaches.

NeuroLenses™ are eyeglasses that treat eyeGraines. These patented lenses assist in the coordination of your eyes so your brain does not need to perform this function. Chronic daily headaches caused by eyeGraines can be reduced or eliminated with this therapy.

You can try to ease headaches on your own with these tips:

  • Eat on a regular schedule and don’t skip breakfast
  • Sleep on a regular schedule for the recommended seven to nine hours a night
  • Avoid triggers that might include artificial sweeteners and preservatives found in such things as diet soda, fast food, lunch meat, bacon, hot dogs and cured meat
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes a day, three days a week
  • Stay hydrated
  • Minimize or eliminate alcohol

Once a headache comes on, treat it right away before the pain gets ahead of you. Drink plenty of water and rest in a dark, quiet room.

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