A headache is defined as "a pain or ache in the head...It accompanies many diseases and conditions, including emotional distress."

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms that can be experienced. Most people will experience a headache at some point of their lives. They can affect anyone regardless of age and gender.

Primary headaches are stand alone illnesses which are caused directly by the overactivity of, or problems with, structures in the head that are pain-sensitive.

Common primary headaches include migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are headaches that are symptoms of another condition that stimulates the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. There are a vast number of different conditions that can cause secondary headaches, ranging in severity from an alcohol-induced hangover to a brain tumor. Included in the list is Glaucoma and eye strain which can both be eliminated by an eyetest.

As headaches can be a symptom of a serious condition, it is advised that medical advice should be sought if headaches are experienced that are more severe than may have previously been experienced.

High stress levels 'increase frequency of headaches'

Treatment and prevention

The most common methods recommended for treating headaches are rest and pain relief medication. Generic pain relief medication can be bought over the counter, or health care providers can prescribe preventative medication, such as tricyclic antidepressants, anti-epileptic drugs and beta blockers for the more severe cases.

It is important to follow the advice of health care providers as overusing pain relief medication can lead to rebound headaches.

There are a number of things that can be done within the daily routine that can ease the pain of headaches: such as applying a heat pack or ice pack to your head or neck can help ease the pain of headaches, avoiding stress, regular meals, exercise and sleep.

Any alternative forms of treatment are best discussed with a health care provider prior to beginning them. But they may include, Acupuncture, Chiropractic treatment, Cognitive behaviour therapy, Herbal health products, and Meditation.

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