Headaches & Migraine

July 09, 2011

A headache is one of the most common symptoms in medicine. It is one of the most frequent complaints in consultations with clinicians, paediatricians and neurologists, physical therapists specialising in osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture specialists, and dentists. It is also one of the most common causes of absence from work.

Headache is a universal symptom in humans. It is estimated that 90 to 100 per cent of people will have some type of headache in their life. Headaches can be divided into primary and secondary categories.

The most common primary headaches are migraine, tension headaches and cluster headaches. Other less common forms include migraine, daily persistent headache, stress headache, cough headache, cold stimulus headache, and chronic paroxysmal hemicranianic headache. Headache experts also treat facial pain, such as trigeminal neuralgia and atypical facial pain.

Secondary headaches are caused by some other disease such as a brain tumour, head trauma, meningitis, stroke, hydrocephalus and aneurysm. These may have to do with problems related to the nervous system or the level of the cranial sacral system (meninges, etc). They may also be related to problems in another part of the body.

The headache you get when you have the flu is also a secondary headache. Headaches can also be idiopathic – those that arise spontaneously or the cause of which is unknown.

Tension headaches are the most frequent, and usually begin with a sensation of heaviness or tightness, either in the front of the head, in the neck or on top of the head. They are often associated with fatigue, nervous system disorders, restlessness, depression, awkward postures, stress, and too much noise. Sometimes they are due to muscular tension in the shoulders and neck, and can last hours or even days.

A migraine is very strong and normally appears periodically as a throbbing headache. Any movement of the head usually worsens the pain, as does physical or mental effort. Migraine often affects only one side of the head and is usually accompanied by intolerance to light and noise, and sometimes vomiting.

People suffering from migraine need a dark, quiet place to rest or sleep in. A migraine may last for hours or days together, during which the person is completely indisposed and unable to function normally.

Sometimes a person may get migraine with aura, leading to impaired vision or loss of vision on one side and blurring of images. He may see bright lines, luminous dots or figures, or even experience numbness or tingling in the face or hands.

Unfortunately, there is no medical examination that can determine the cause of a migraine. The medical solutions are usually the same – analgesic or anti-inflammatory drugs. However, medication can only be used to control seizures and not to address the causes, which are still unknown.

Observation of people who suffer from these problems can help in the detection of problems with the cranial sacral system. Once corrected, the frequency of migraines and headaches can be substantially reduced.

But sometimes correcting the body and cranial sacral system is not enough, because sometimes emotional factors are at work, leading to these problems.

This is often the reason behind failure to address the causes of headaches and migraines. There are very few professionals who have the training and sensitivity to detect and correct problems with the body, particularly the cranial sacral system. Even fewer of them are willing to take into account the emotional factors that are often behind these problems.

Laura Do Vale is a trained clinical psychologist as well as a neuro-psychologist with over ten years of practice. She is currently doing her PhD from the University of Estremadura, Spain. She has practiced at the trauma unit of the Central Hospital of S. Jose; at the oncology unit at Capuchos Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Dona Estefânia and as the pneumologist at the Hospital of Sta Marta, Lisboa – Portugal. She now works at Muscat Private Hospital.