What causes headaches?
Doctors don’t fully understand what causes most headaches. They do know that the brain tissue and the skull are never responsible since they don’t have nerves that register pain. But the blood vessels in the head and neck can signal pain, as can the tissues that surround the brain and some major nerves that originate in the brain. The scalp, sinuses, teeth, and muscles and joints of the neck can also cause head pain.
When to worry about a headache
You can take care of many types of headaches by yourself, and your doctor can give you medication to control most of the tougher headaches. But some headaches call for prompt medical care. Here are some warning signs for when you should worry about headaches:
- Headaches that first develop after age 50
- A major change in the pattern of your headaches
- An unusually severe headache
- Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
- Headaches that get steadily worse
- Changes in personality or mental function
- Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory, or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
- Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
- Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
- Headaches after a blow to the head
- Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
- Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
- Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems
Types of headaches
There are more than 300 types of headaches, but only about 10% of headaches have a known cause. The others are called primary headaches. Here is a rundown on some major primary headaches.
Occurring in about three of every four adults, tension headaches are the most common of all headaches. In most cases, they are mild to moderate in severity and occur infrequently. But a few people get severe tension headaches, and some are troubled by them for three or four times a week.
The typical tension headache produces a dull, squeezing pain on both sides of the head. People with strong tension headaches may feel like their head is in a vise. The shoulders and neck can also ache. Some tension headaches are triggered by fatigue, emotional stress, or problems involving the muscles or joints of the neck or jaw. Most last for 20 minutes to two hours.
If you get occasional tension-type headaches, you can take care of them yourself. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, other brands) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve, other brands), or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, other brands) often do the trick, but follow the directions on the label, and never take more than you should. A heating pad or warm shower may help; some people feel better with a short nap or light snack.
If you need more help, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication or a muscle relaxant to control headache pain. Many people with recurrent tension-type headaches can prevent attacks by taking a tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline (Elavil, generic). Fortunately, most people with tension-type headaches will do very well with simpler programs.
Migraines occur less often than tension headaches, but they are usually much more severe. They are two to three times more common in women than men, but that’s small consolation if you are among the 6% to 8% of all men who have migraines. And since a Harvard study of 20,084 men age 40 to 84 reported that having migraines boosts the risk of heart attacks by 42%, men with migraines should take their headaches to heart.
Neurologists believe that migraines are caused by changes in the brain’s blood flow and nerve cell activity. Genetics play a role since 70% of migraine victims have at least one close relative with the problem.
Migraine triggers. Although a migraine can come on without warning, it is often set off by a trigger. The things that set off a migraine vary from person to person, but a migraine sufferer usually remains sensitive to the same triggers. The table lists some of the most common ones.
Major migraine triggers
Migraine symptoms. Migraines often begin in the evening or during sleep. In some people, the attacks are preceded by several hours of fatigue, depression, and sluggishness or by irritability and restlessness. Because migraine symptoms vary widely, at least half of all migraine sufferers think they have sinus or tension headaches, not migraines.
About 20% of migraines begin with one or more neurological symptoms called an aura. Visual complaints are most common. They may include halos, sparkles or flashing lights, wavy lines, and even temporary loss of vision. The aura may also produce numbness or tingling on one side of the body, especially the face or hand. Some patients develop aura symptoms without getting headaches; they often think they are having a stroke, not a migraine.
The majority of migraines develop without an aura. In typical cases, the pain is on one side of the head, often beginning around the eye and temple before spreading to the back of the head. The pain is frequently severe and is described as throbbing or pulsating. Nausea is common, and many migraine patients have a watering eye, a running nose, or congestion. If these symptoms are prominent, they may lead to a misdiagnosis of sinus headaches.
Without effective treatment, migraine attacks usually last for four to 24 hours. When you’re suffering a migraine, even four hours is far too long — and that’s why early treatment for a migraine is so important.
Migraine treatment. If you spot a migraine in its very earliest stages, you may be able to control it with nonprescription pain relievers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and a combination of pain medications and caffeine are all effective — if you take a full dose very early in the attack. The anti-nausea drug metoclopramide (Reglan) may enhance the activity of NSAIDs.
When prescription drugs are needed, most doctors turn to the triptans, which are available as tablets, nasal sprays, or as injections that patients can learn to give to themselves. Examples include sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and rizatriptan (Maxalt). Triptans provide complete relief within two hours for up to 70% of patients; the response is best if treatment is started early. Some patients require a second dose within 12 to 24 hours. Because the triptans can affect blood flow to the heart as well as the head, patients with cardiovascular disease should not use them. Patients who take antidepressants in the SSRI family should also avoid triptans.
Work with your doctor to find the migraine treatment that works best for you. Remember, though, that overuse can lead to rebound headaches and a vicious cycle of drugs and headaches. So, if you need treatment more than two or three times a week, consider preventive medications.
Migraine prevention. Some people can prevent migraines simply by avoiding triggers. Others do well with prompt therapy for occasional attacks. But patients who suffer frequent migraine attacks often benefit from preventive medications. Effective prescription drugs include beta blockers (such as propranolol, nadolol and atenolol), certain antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), and certain antiseizure medications (such topiramate and valproate). Difficult cases may benefit from referral to a headache specialist.
Fioricet is a medication that is being used more and more often for patients who are struggling with constant tension All kinds of Headache and migraines.
Since these types of All kinds of Headache have similar causes, they can easily be treated with the same type of medication. Before you start using this medication, though, you might be wondering exactly how and why it works on your body. Here’s some information on the main ingredients in Fioricet and what they do for your body.
Fioricet contains a combination of acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. Butalbital is in a group of drugs called barbiturates. It relaxes muscle contractions involved in a tension headache.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It relaxes muscle contractions in blood vessels to improve blood flow.
Fioricet is used to treat tension headaches that are caused by muscle contractions.
Butalbital has generalized depressant effect on central nervous system and, in very high doses, has peripheral effects.
Acetaminophen has analgesic and antipyretic effects mediated by a metabolite which acts at cannabinoid receptors, contrary to popular belief it is not an anti-inflammatory at safe levels (it becomes toxic at doses above 1,000mg per dose and/or 3,000mg per day).
Caffeine is thought to produce constriction of cerebral blood vessels and serves to counteract the sedative effect of butalbital.
Butalbital has a half-life of about 35 hours. Acetaminophen has a half-life of about 1.25 to 3 hours, but may be increased by liver damage and after an overdose. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 to 7 hours
Acetaminophen is one of the main ingredients in this medication. It is a blood thinner that is often used as an over the counter pain reliever and fever reducer. Chances are likely that if you’ve struggled with All kinds of Headache for a while, you may have already tried taking acetaminophen under different brand names to reduce your pain. Chances are likely that it didn’t work for the worst of your All kinds of Headache. The reason that it works in Fioricet, though, is that it’s combined with two other ingredients: Butalbital and caffeine.
Butalbital is a barbiturate, a powerful medication used to relax the muscles and ease tension. This medication can make some people sleepy, so you should be careful about using Fioricet when you’re driving or operating heavy machinery. Many times tension All kinds of Headache and migraines are caused by the tension in neck and shoulder muscles. Since Butalbital helps ease this tension, it can get rid of one of the underlying causes for such All kinds of Headache.
Many people are surprised to learn that caffeine is a major active ingredient in Fioricet. This substance, though, actually can increase blood flow and help the nervous system function more smoothly. For this reason, it helps the body loosen up and can also ensure that the other two active ingredients are delivered to the proper spots in the body more quickly through the fast-flowing blood stream.
Before you purchase Fioricet from a pharmacy, you might want to check out the different options for ordering this effective headache and tension medication.
You can actually get better prices by purchasing it online. Plus, ordering them online is excellent because you can conveniently get your medications delivered right to your door. The discretion and ease involved in purchasing your pain relieving medication this way is unparalleled by what any regular pharmacy can offer. Before you decide to purchase your Fioricet, make sure you research other purchasing options that might save you time and money.