Majority or 90-95 percent of headaches a person experiences are primary headaches, experts said.
“The headache is the disease itself. They are not caused by other medical conditions,” Dr. Godfrey Robeniol, a neurologist, said during a webinar hosted by HI-Eisai Pharmaceutical, Inc.
A primary headache – as in not a symptom of underlying medical conditions such as infections, brain tumor, or brain hemorrhage – may either be a tension-type headache or a migraine.
A tension-type headache is caused by excessive muscle contractions in the head, neck, and shoulder area that can cause pain and tightness on both sides of the head. Triggers include stress, improper body posture, dehydration, and squinting of the eyes.
According to experts, this is most common in a work-from-home setup, where mobility is decreased. Looking down on our phones, sitting or lying down for long hours, straining the eyes in front of TV or laptop, and other unnatural body positions may cause muscle spasms that can result in tension headaches.
“There’s what we call the ‘Deconditioning Syndrome’. Not just in the neck but our whole body. We lack movement so we’re more prone to having these kinds of ailments in the musculature and especially in the head, neck, and shoulder area,” explained Dr. Jerico dela Cruz, a rehabilitation medicine expert.
Deconditioning Syndrome occurs as a result of prolonged bed rest and loss of muscle strength and movement. The rehab medical expert suggests stretching or exercising for at least 20 minutes a day to manage tension headaches.
Meanwhile, a migraine is usually felt on one side of the head and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. It is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of severe headaches that are usually throbbing and can last for a few hours to a whole day.
Its triggers can be different for each person, but the most common, according to experts, are stress, lack of sleep, intense exhaustion, skipping of meals, food items (e.g. cheese, processed meat), and hormonal changes for women.
To manage stress and reduce the body’s pain receptors, people can try meditation, mind-body technique biofeedback, and massage or acupuncture. It is also important to feed and clear the mind by talking to friends or experts.
“Rest and sleep are good prevention as well as proper body mechanics (the way you stand, the way you pick up things, carry stuff), and proper posture (shoulders relaxed, gaze straight ahead, upright posture, neutral pelvis, gluteal muscles engaged, abdomen pulled up, shoulders, hips, and ankles in line). Managing stress well is also proven and tested. Hence, exercise, in itself, is always helpful, so make it a habit,” added Dr. Dela Cruz.
When to seek medical help
Considering the percentage, albeit small, that a headache may be a symptom of a disease, experts recommend seeking medical attention if a person experiences the following: sudden change in headache frequency; increase in severity of pain; neurological signs like imbalance, doubling of vision, paralysis, and increase in sleeping time; headaches that wake you up from sleep; history of trauma.
“It’s okay to self-medicate with OTC (over-the-counter) drugs, but in three to five days and it’s still there, seek medical help. From there we can provide the right prescription for pain relievers, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anxiolytics if necessary,” said Dr. Robeniol.
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