A Guide to Headaches and Migraines

In most cases, headaches are not serious and can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, some people suffer from chronic or severe headaches that require more aggressive treatment. 

In this article from the Ketamine & Infusion Clinic of South Florida, we’ll look at headaches and migraines in more depth, exploring the most common types of headaches and how they are different from chronic migraine conditions.

We’ll also provide an overview of treatment options, including ketamine therapy, and offer some tips on how to prevent headaches and migraines in the first place.

What Is a Headache?

A headache is defined as pain or discomfort that occurs in any part of the head, including the temples, forehead, back of the head, or neck. There are many different types of headaches, but the most common are tension headaches and migraines.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, accounting for around 78% of all headaches. Migraines, on the other hand, are more severe and can last for several hours or even days. 

What Causes Headaches?

There are many different things that can trigger a headache, including:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Hormonal changes (in women)
  • Certain foods and drinks (including alcohol, caffeine, and MSG)
  • Weather changes
  • Bright lights or loud noises
  • Strong smells
  • Medications

If you suffer from chronic or severe headaches, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. In some cases, headaches can be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a brain tumor, aneurysm, or infection.

Now, we’ll take a look at some common types of headaches.

Common Types of Headaches

Tension headaches

As we mentioned, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are often caused by stress, dehydration, or muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. 

Tension headaches usually feel like a dull ache or pressure around the forehead or temples and can last for 30 minutes to a few hours.

While they can be unpleasant, tension headaches are not typically severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. If you suffer from tension headaches on a regular basis, there are several things you can do to help prevent them, including:

  • Practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga or meditation
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Taking breaks during periods of extended mental or physical activity
  • Practicing good posture
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing
  • Taking OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen

If your headaches are severe or chronic, it’s important to get in touch with a doctor to rule out something more serious.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are less common than tension headaches or migraines, but they can be quite severe. 

Cluster headaches typically come in “clusters,” meaning that you may experience several headaches per day for a period of weeks or months, followed by a headache-free period. 

The pain from a cluster headache is usually concentrated on one side of the head and can be described as sharp, piercing, or burning. Cluster headaches can also cause redness or tearing in the eye on the affected side as well as a runny nose.

Cluster headaches are often triggered by changes in sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, or stress. 

If you suffer from chronic or severe cluster headaches, you may need to see a doctor. Treatments can include oxygen therapy, injections of sumatriptan (a migraine medication), or even surgery to prevent these headaches from recurring.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by inflammation of the sinuses, which are the cavities around your nose and eyes. Sinus headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, and facial pain or pressure. 

Sinus headaches are usually the result of a sinus infection, but they can also be caused by allergies, changes in weather, or altitude changes. 

If you suffer from chronic or severe sinus headaches, you may need to see a doctor for more aggressive treatment. This can include antibiotics, decongestants, or corticosteroid nasal sprays.

What Are Migraines?

As we mentioned, migraines are more severe than tension headaches and can last for several hours or even days. Migraines typically cause throbbing pain on one side of the head as well as other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines can be triggered by many of the same factors that trigger tension headaches, including stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and certain foods and drinks. If you suffer from migraines, there are several things you can do to help prevent them, including:

  • Avoiding the triggers mentioned above: stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and certain foods and drinks
  • Taking preventive medications, such as anticonvulsants or beta-blockers
  • Applying a warm or cold compress to the affected area
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
  • Resting in a dark or dimly-lit environment

What Is a Migraine Aura?

While not all migraines are accompanied by an aura, around 25%-30% of people who experience migraines will also have an aura. An aura is a visual or sensory disturbance that typically occurs 10-30 minutes before the onset of a migraine.

Migraine aura can take many different forms, but the most common form is visual disturbances, such as flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots. Other less common forms of migraine aura include:

  • Sensory disturbances, such as tingling or numbness in the hands or face
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

In addition to being signs of a migraine, if you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical help immediately, as they could also be signs of a stroke.

Ketamine Therapy for Headaches and Migraines

While there is no cure for headaches or migraines, there are treatments that can help to relieve the pain and other symptoms. If you suffer from chronic or severe headaches or migraines, you may be interested in ketamine therapy.

Ketamine therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for headaches and migraines. A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that ketamine was an effective treatment for chronic migraines, with participants experiencing a significant reduction in pain, aura attack severity, and other symptoms.

If you suffer from chronic or severe headaches or migraines and are interested in ketamine therapy, we encourage you to contact the Ketamine & Infusion Clinic of South Florida to learn more about this treatment option.

We are a team of board-certified providers who specialize in the use of ketamine for the treatment of mood disorders and chronic pain. If you would like to learn more about ketamine therapy or schedule a consultation, please contact us today.

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Migraines & Meditation

A long day at the office has thrown you for a loop – literally, onto your bed, a pillow covering your eyes, and all the lights shut off. You’ve got a throbbing pounding headache, and you’re afraid it’ll end up like the last one – lingering for days. It could be a migraine.

What’s A Migraine?

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities.”

More than 36 million Americans have migraines, which is more than all the people suffering from asthma and diabetes.

What Causes A Migraine?

Though the exact cause for a migraine headache is unknown, genetics and environmental factors play an outside role in their formation, duration, and severity. A migraine may also be triggered by:

  • Hormonal changes in women.
  • Certain drinks and foods.
  • Stress, anxiety, mood disorders.
  • Overstimulation (bright light, loud noise, strong odors).
  • Sleep problems.
  • Intense physical activity may cause a migraine.
  • Barometric pressure accompanied by weather changes.
  • Certain medication.
  • Food additives like the preservative monosodium glutamate.

Know The Symptoms

Symptoms of migraines can sometimes be treated with different kinds of therapy or medicine like ketamine. Warning signs include:

  • Mild or severe and often extreme pain in your head.
  • Pain on one or both sides of your head, the front, the back, even in the eyes and cheeks.
  • Throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Extreme sensitivity to stimuli.
  • Pain restricts responsibilities like work or school and your performance.
  • Lasts between four hours to several days.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation’s history and practice go back thousands of years. It originally had a spiritual component to help deepen a practitioner’s knowledge of the holy and mystical powers of life. In modern times, meditation is generally used to relax and reduce stress. Anyone can participate.

In many circles, meditation is looked upon as a kind of transcendental, mind-body complementary medication, able to induce a deep state of respite and a peaceful mind.

Migraines & Meditation

According to the American Migraine Foundation, “Meditation as a form of stress reduction may lead to improvement in awareness and managing one’s stressors. Experienced meditators show a more extensive activation of executive functions like working memory, planning, and cognitive flexibility during sustained attention, but less activation of emotion-related areas.” It’s been reported that “expert meditators have extensive control of frontoparietal and insula networks (Which play a role in functions related to perception, motor control, self-awareness, and cognitive functioning).”

Migraines are often induced by anxiety and unusually high levels of stress, which may explain why so many people gravitate toward meditation as a relief method. Most studies indicate that upwards of 500 million people worldwide meditate, though the exact number may be higher.

There are many benefits of meditation (and not just for migraines): 

  • You may gain insight into what triggers stressful situations
  • You may build skills to manage stress levels
  • Meditation is a great way to boost self-awareness
  • It allows you to focus on the present
  • Meditation may help reduce the presence and influence of negative emotions
  • Possibly increases imagination and creativity 
  • Boosts patience and tolerance levels

The benefits of meditation in treating medical illness remains continually open to debate, but besides relieving migraines, it may offer therapeutic value related to:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep troubles
  • Tension headaches

Is meditation the cure-all for a migraine headache? Probably not, but it’s another worthy option in your toolbelt.

Diagnosis & Treatment

To arrive at a diagnosis, your healthcare provider will:

  • Record yours and your family medical history. Knowing whether a biological relative suffers from migraines is essential information.
  • Ask you to describe your symptoms, including frequency, duration, and possible triggers.
  • Perform a physical and neurological assessment to root out possible causes for your migraine.

A critical part of identifying migraines is to eliminate other medical conditions that might trigger the symptoms, resulting in blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging, or other tests.

There are many ways to treat migraines, including medicine, drinking fluids, meditation, and even ketamine infusion therapy.

Final Thoughts

If you suffer from migraines, you know how painful and all-encompassing they can be – often lasting for days. But trying to rationalize them away, or ignoring them in most cases, is a bad idea. Migraines may need professional medical care, and you should ask your healthcare provider about the best treatment available.

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