Everyone gets a tension headache on occasion. Usually, when you get one of these types of headaches, you can take an analgesic and it goes away. But for about 17% of the population, headaches are a more frequent occurrence that can really interfere with their quality of life.
Recurring headaches can be due to migraines, but you shouldn’t automatically assume they’re the cause of your headaches. An evaluation with a pain management specialist can help you to identify the true reasons why you get frequent headaches so you get appropriate treatment.
Here, the providers at LA Pain Doctor — treating patients in and around Metairie, LaPlace, Harvey, New Orleans, and Luling, Louisiana — explain more about the causes of headaches.
The most common cause of headaches
Migraines are the most common cause of recurrent headaches, affecting an estimated 39 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide. Migraines are one of the most common illnesses in the world and reportedly lead to $36 billion in lost productivity and health care costs.
Women are at a much greater risk of migraines than men. It’s estimated that 80% of migraine sufferers are women. Though the reason for this difference is unknown, it’s suspected that fluctuating female hormone levels are a contributing factor.
Other causes of headaches
You can also have recurring headaches that aren’t caused by migraines. Some of these other causes of headaches include:
Sinus headaches can become chronic, and they’re often difficult to distinguish from migraines. Symptoms of sinus headaches include a deep and constant pain in your cheeks, eyebrows, or the bridge of your nose; fatigue; an achy feeling in your teeth; and pain that gets worse when you bend forward.
Primary headaches are not a symptom of another illness. Often, they’re caused by structures within the head or neck. Primary headaches are caused by overactivity of:
- Blood vessels
- Specific areas of the brain
- Chemicals within the brain
Cluster headaches are usually primary headaches. Cluster headaches frequently occur at around the same time every day and last for anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours.
You may have symptoms including pain around one eye, redness or tearing in your eyes, and a stuffed or runny nose. In some cases, people experience cluster headaches for up to 12 weeks, and then they disappear for a period of time.
Secondary headaches are usually caused by another illness or condition. Some of the causes of secondary headaches include:
- Giant cell arteritis (an inflammation of the lining of your arteries)
- Infection or other systemic conditions
- A brain tumor
Secondary headaches are much less common than the other types, but they can be so serious that you should definitely get them checked out by a doctor. If you have a “thunderclap” headache — sudden and severe pain that’s much worse than anything you’ve experienced — seek emergency care immediately.
Rebound tension headaches
Often caused by the use of over-the-counter pain relievers, rebound tension headaches are actually withdrawal symptoms. Because you have the headache symptom again, you take more pain relievers, and the cycle continues.
This can be the case with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), drugs containing caffeine, and even prescription drugs for headaches called triptans.
You don’t have to live with the pain
If your headaches are interfering with your quality of life, don’t try to tough it out and deal with the pain alone. Regardless of the cause, we can treat your headaches. Contact the providers at LA Pain Doctor today, or request an appointment using our online tool.