How to Treat and Prevent Headaches

Most of us get headaches, but we may not treat them with the best or newest methods. Step one: Be sure you know what type you have.
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Dear Diary

Elizabeth Parker, 42, a mother of two school-age daughters in Charlotte, North Carolina, is normally upbeat and energetic. But every month, the day before her period, she develops a pounding headache so severe that only a prescription drug can relieve it. This has been going on since she began menstruating, at age 14.

While most of us -- 95 percent of women, says the American Headache Society -- get occasional headaches, most often triggered by stress or fatigue and mild enough to be cured with two aspirin and a good night's sleep, more troublesome pain like Parker's is also widespread. According to a World Health Organization report, 15 to 18 percent of women (two to three times the rate of men) experience migraines each year, and as many as one in 20 adults have a headache nearly every day.

Doctors recognize several types of headaches, such as the garden-variety tension type; migraines, including menstrual migraines; rebound headaches; and cluster headaches, the most severe kind. Fortunately, improved understanding and a growing number of effective new drugs have made headache treatment better than ever. To determine what type of headache you have, it's important to keep a diary of your symptoms for at least a few weeks to spot potential pain triggers, which might include hormonal changes right before your period, eating certain foods, drinking alcohol, changes in the weather, and stress. Our guide will give you the facts you need to pinpoint the problem, take the right steps to treat your headache, and better yet, prevent the pain entirely.

Continued on page 2:  Tension Headaches


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