Headaches are very common. Everyone has experienced a headache at one point or other in their lives but if you are experiencing more frequent or more severe headaches, you should seek medical advice to exclude anything serious and learn how to manage your condition.
Some serious causes of persistent headaches that need to be excluded include inflammation in the blood vessels in the brain, stroke, infections, tumours, traumatic brain injury and changes in intracranial pressure. Once these have been excluded, a careful history and examination would often indicate the type of headache and the most appropriate management.
Tension headaches feel like a tight band or pressure around the head and are caused by contraction or spasm of the muscle around the skull. These types of headaches are sometimes associated with neck pain and stiffness and are usually aggravated by stress and anxiety.
Migraines are more severe headaches which may be associated with nausea and vomiting as well as sensitivity to light and sound. These types of headaches often run in families and are sometimes preceded by an aura which is a sensory or visual disturbance occurring minutes before onset of the headache.
Cluster headaches feel as if someone is tearing one’s eye out with a chisel. They occur in clusters, that is for periods of weeks and this may be followed by months or even years of no headaches. Commoner in men, they can be debilitating but medication can help.
Sinus headaches occur when there is congestion in the sinuses following allergy or infection. Accurate diagnosis is the key to getting prompt, appropriate treatment as symptoms resolve very quickly once this is started.
Rebound headaches occur in patients who take painkillers frequently for minor aches and pains. The body develops tolerance to these painkillers and stopping them can cause headaches.
A consultation usually lasts 30-45minutes, sometimes longer. The initial assessment is carried out by a doctor, where you will be asked about your condition, when it started, what professionals you visited and what treatments have been tried. You will be asked about the pain and how it is affecting your life. Any past medical issues, surgeries, drugs or medications that have been taken should be noted. You will be asked about sleep patterns, diet, exercise, past traumas and mental health problems.
Once the history-taking is complete, some tests are carried out to assess the severity of the pain and how it is affecting the various activities in your life. Anxiety and depression levels are measured using a special tool and all results are recorded for future reference. Then, the doctor will examine you and let you know if there is any need for further tests.
Following this, treatment options are discussed with the patient. The doctor will go through the consultation and point out areas in the patient’s life which need to be improved. The patient’s diet, exercise and sleep patterns are discussed. The doctor will let you know about the various forms of pain relief which are available and which are most likely to help. Once a plan is agreed upon, you are given a list of the team members which could help you with your condition. You may also opt to enroll your own personal health care professional (e.g. physiotherapist, nutritionist) and allow them to liaise with the doctor to maximize pain management. A follow-up appointment is given and the doctor’s contact details are given to you to refer to in case of any difficulties.
If you need an assessment for chronic headaches, kindly contact us for an appointment or book online. You may be asked a few questions about your condition in order to allocate sufficient time for a comprehensive assessment.