Find solutions to your regular or chronic headaches with English-speaking general practitioners and specialists in Barcelona

Headaches are one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. It is estimated that between half and three quarters of adults aged between 18 and 65 worldwide have experienced this symptom in the past year.

Headaches vary in severity and duration and can be accompanied by other symptoms, often making them particularly disabling in everyday life.

If you suffer from headaches on a regular basis, do not hesitate to make an appointment with one of our English-speaking doctors to find a solution adapted to your needs.

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What is a headache?

A headache is a localized pain in the cranial region.

There are different types of headaches depending on the exact location of the pain, its duration and other accompanying signs (nausea, vision problems, etc).

What are the different types of headaches?

Tension headaches

These are the most common type of headache. They are usually mild to moderate and cause pain around the head (a feeling like being caught in a vice), sometimes appearing also into the neck.

Symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • A feeling of pressure in the head
  • Pain that usually starts in the forehead or neck and then spreads
  • They are not accompanied by dizziness or nausea
  • Constant, non-pulsating pain

Most of the time, tension headaches do not last more than a few hours, but it is very variable according to the individual.

 

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Migraine

Migraine is a pulsing headache that occurs in attacks. It causes unilateral pain that intensifies with physical activity and can last from a few hours to several days.

Migraines are often accompanied by various digestive or neurological symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Photophobia

Additionally, migraine affects 12% of adults and 5 to 10% of children, i.e. 11 million people. Women are 2 to 3 times more affected than men.

Facial Vascular Algesia

A rarer condition, facial vascular angina is characterized by extremely severe pain on one side only, in the eye, forehead or temple, with attacks lasting from 15 minutes to 3 hours and occurring daily (1 to 8 attacks per day).

The pain is often accompanied by watery eyes and a feeling of a blocked nose on the affected side.

Horton's headaches

Horton's headaches are headaches related to Horton's disease. It is a chronic disease caused by inflammation of the temporal arteries and occurs in the elderly.

It is characterized by headaches mainly at night and in the morning, abnormal scalp sensitivity, fatigue, etc. and biological signs of inflammation when blood is drawn.

Cervicogenic headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are rare migraine-like pains caused by a pathology of the cervical spine. They are chronic headaches.

Other types of headaches

Headaches can also be caused by other health problems such as sinusitis, influenza, infectious mononucleosis, high blood pressure or meningitis.

Similarly, some headaches are related to medication or intoxication and occur after:

  • Excessive consumption of painkillers in the case of migraine
  • Chronic lead poisoning or lead poisoning
  • Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, most often due to defective combustion heating
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

In any case, if you suffer from severe, recurrent headaches that handicap you in your daily life, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.

Headaches: what treatment is needed?

To be able to provide appropriate treatment, it is very important to understand the triggering factors, the type of pain (its location, intensity, duration and frequency) and the presence of other associated disorders.

Therefore, the patient interview prior to diagnosis must be very precise. The examination will be comprehensive and in particular look for signs related to neurological and ENT problems.

Certain complementary examinations may also be useful, in particular:

  • Fundus of the eye
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Blood cell count
  • Sedimentation rate
  • Sometimes CT scan (or even MRI) or lumbar puncture (to rule out meningitis or meningeal haemorrhage, vital emergencies to be treated as quickly as possible).

 

How to avoid headaches?

Headaches can be encouraged by certain factors (lack of sleep, overwork, food, coffee, noise, screens, smells, etc). You should focus on these factors and try to avoid the behaviours or situations that trigger your headaches.

In general, we advise you to:

  • Reduce the time spent in front of screens (computer, telephone, television, etc.)
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Try to reduce sources of stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid foods that cause headaches: chocolate, alcohol, cheese, acidic fruit, ice cream, etc

What are the treatments for headaches?

The best treatment of headaches is to treat the cause, where possible.

There are also several treatments to relieve the pain, including:

  • Taking painkillers (paracetamol in particular) or triptans in the case of migraine
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room
  • Massaging the back of the neck and the temples
  • Peppermint or lavender inhalations
  • Ginger tea

Alternative medicine and natural alternatives have also found a place in the treatment of headaches in recent years. Osteopathy can be very helpful when the headache is related to cervical displacement or contractures.

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Headaches: our answers to your most frequently asked questions

The main difference between a classic headache and a migraine is that a migraine is a throbbing or pounding pain on one side of the head and occurs in more or less regular attacks.
Tension headaches are described as a feeling of tightness around the head. They start at the front of the head or in the area around the eyes and then spread throughout the head.
If your headache is accompanied by vomiting, pain in the arm or memory loss, if it occurs after an accident or during your third trimester of pregnancy, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
Paracetamol is the most commonly used medication for headaches because it is the best tolerated, including in children and pregnant women.

 

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