Treating a headache

What to do about the common headache, migraines and cluster headaches.

What are tension headaches?: 

Tension headaches are the most common headaches that we think of as everyday headaches. These headaches produce a constant ache that affects both sides of the head and you may feel pressure behind the eyes too. 

There are a number of causes to getting these headaches, and these include;

  • Drinking too much alcohol,
  • Not getting enough sleep,
  • Depression,
  • Noise,
  • Tiredness,
  • Skipping meals,
  • Dehydration. 

If you get a tension headache then taking painkillers (such as paracetamol and ibuprofen) or trying relaxation techniques can help you feel better. You could lie down and breathe deeply, do yoga stretches or massage your neck and shoulders.

If you spend a lot of time staring at a TV or computer screen then this can strain your eyes and cause a headache too. Try to rest your eyes by looking away from the screen every 20 minutes to avoid a headache!

You can learn more about tension headaches on the NHS Choices website

What are migraines?: 

Migraines are headaches which are more severe than tension headaches and can be felt at the front or on one side of the head. They may also make you feel sick and that looking at the light hurts your eyes too. 

There are two types of migraine;

  • migraine with aura,
  • migraine without an aura.

An aura is essentially a warning that you’re about to get a migraine. This can be in the form of visual problems, stiffness in your neck/shoulders, problems with co-ordination and difficulty sleeping. 

Migraines can be treated with over the counter medication prescribed by a doctor. 

What are cluster headaches?: 

Cluster headaches are a rare type of headaches that are much more painful than tension headaches or migraines. They involve an intense pain around one eye. 

They are called cluster headaches because they happen in clusters for a month or two at the same time each year. The pain can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours.

People with cluster headaches need specialist treatment prescribed by a doctor. The headache is not life threatening but it can cause a lot of pain!

When should I get help?: 

It’s never nice having a headache, but it is usually just a tension headache which passes in a few hours and can be helped by relaxation techniques or painkillers.

If you feel ill between headaches or your headaches are preventing you from getting on with school or other activities then it might be worth visiting your GP to see what medication can help.