The common headache affects a most people at some time in their lives, including as a child. The causes of a headache can be trivial or it may be the early warning sign of an underlying more serious problem, but this is extremely unlikely in most cases. Causes of headaches can be divided simplistically into 5 main groups. 1)Vascular 2)Meningeal 3) Tension 4)Referred 5)Tumour.
Vascular headaches are normally throbbing in nature, Migraine headaches belong usually to this group. Dilated blood vessels and stretch on the blood vessel walls cause the throbbing and pain. Dilation is a response to a need for increased circulation. If the body requires to rid itself of toxins e.g. alcohol, chemical waste processes of physiological functions or toxins created by infections, to name but a few, it will try and increase the blood flow to the organs of excretion. At the same time the blood pressure will increase as the rate of flow increases, giving rise to an increase in blood pressure to the head, and subsequent headache. Drinking plenty of water to dilute the concentration of the toxins will help reduce the symptoms and increase urinary output thus decreasing toxin levels in the body.
Meningeal headaches are rarer and are as a result of the meninges, the tissue covering the brain, becoming irritated by substances in the fluid between the cranium and the brain itself. These substances can originate from infections (Meningitis) or bleeds into the cavity. Neck stiffness is nearly always associated with this type of headache.
Tension headaches occur as a result of an increase in tension in the muscles supporting and moving the head. This can be as a result of poor posture or physical strain. These muscles join the neck to the head. both anteriorly and posteriorly, by means of blending into a large sheet of muscle which resembles a skullcap, and covers the head. The top or front of this muscle ends at the eyebrow level, the bottom or back, ends at the base of the skull. Hence the two classic areas where headaches are felt. The reason for the pain is the pull or stretch of the muscle insertions over the area they insert onto the boney surface (Periosteum), creating an area of irritation. Blood vessels travel through these muscles, and therefore the increase in pressure on the outside of these vessel walls can give rise to vascular symptoms being present as well.
Referred pain causing a headache is usually as a result of e.g. earache, toothache or other dental problems, sinusitis, cervical spine disorders, eye or artery problems.
Tumour headaches result from the space occupied by the tumour within the skull, displacing other sensitive tissues by pressure.
All headaches if persistent, associated with neck stiffness or visual disturbances, dizziness or arise shortly after a head injury or fall, should be investigated. It is unfortunate that many people suffer and are prone to certain types of headache.
It is always a good idea to examine your own lifestyle to see if any improvement can be made in areas of stress management or diet habits.
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