I’m Getting Headaches Every Day; What Should I Do? - Nancy Branberg
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I’m Getting Headaches Every Day; What Should I Do?

Woman holding bridge of nose because of headache

Are you plagued by headaches?

A headache is something that most women experience at some time. Many relate to changing hormone levels in perimenopause and menopause, or the menstrual cycle. 

But not always – especially if you have them every day rather than a few times per month.

Many different causes and types of headaches could be at play for you, so please read on to find out which one you might have, what's causing it, and what you can do about it. 

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What Are Chronic Headaches?

 If you have persistent headaches for a fortnight or more every month for more than three months at a time, we term them chronic headaches.

Chronic headaches can afflict men, women, kids, and adults alike, impacting their daily routines significantly. 

We classify chronic or constant headaches using the following terms:

  • Migraines: Migraine headaches are throbbing and intense and can happen in both or a single side of the head. Migraines sometimes appear alongside sensory disturbances – like seeing flashing lights or feeling tingling in various body parts. In this case, we refer to them as "migraine with aura."
  • Hemicrania continua: Doctors use this term to describe a daily or constant headache that is similar to a migraine. The main difference is that they repeatedly occur on a single (same) side of the head. 
  • Tension headache: With tension headaches, you may feel like you have a tight band around your head.
  • Cluster headaches: occur intermittently for weeks or months and can lead to intense pain on a single side, mostly behind or around an eye.
  • Daily persistent headaches: appear suddenly, happen daily, and can continue for months without relief.

What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Headaches?

An image of girl with headache

The symptoms of headaches can vary and are subject to whatever the root cause of the headache is in your case (which you need a physical therapist or doctor to diagnose for you). 

But they can include the following:  
  • Pain in both or single side of the head
  • Intensity varies from persistent mild to intense pain
  • A feeling of nausea accompanied by vomiting
  • Being sensitive to bright light and loud sounds
  • A runny or stuffed nose with swelling or tearing up of the eyes
  • A tight throbbing sensation in the temple on one of both sides
  • Anxiety or agitation for no plausible reason
  • Feeling lightheaded 

What Causes Chronic Headaches?

The root cause of headaches is very much individual. 

So you need a physical therapist with experience in headaches to do the detective work for you – because it's impossible to treat and prevent headaches when you don't know the cause. 

However, here are a few of the most common causes of chronic headaches that we see in the clinic: 

  • Muscle tension: If you have chronic stress in your neck, shoulders, or head muscles, it can lead to daily headaches. 
  • Trigeminal nerve activation: We all have a major nerve that runs through the face and head. It's called the trigeminal nerve. This nerve transmits sensory information from various tissues and structures in the body to the brain. If this nerve is activated, it could cause headache symptoms. 
  • Hormones: Hormone levels like estrogen or progesterone changes that occur across the menstrual cycle and in perimenopause sometimes link to the onset of certain kinds of headaches. One of the leading causes of migraines, particularly in women, is the fluctuations in estrogen levels at various points in the menstrual cycle and the early stages of perimenopause.
  • Genetics: While further studies are needed, scientists think that your genetics could be partly responsible for different kinds of headaches, especially migraines.
  • But it's important to remember that this doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do to prevent them. There is. Although your genes might make you more prone to headaches, environmental factors and lifestyle play a much more significant role.

Some of the other less common causes of chronic headaches include: 

woman in bed with head pain
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Excessive physical exercise or exertion
  • Inadequate sleep
  • High levels of stress
  • Skipping regular meals
  • Dependence on alcohol or caffeine
  • Certain types of medication
  • Weather changes may also bring on headaches
  • Being excessively overweight (obesity)

Treatment Options For Chronic Headaches

Are medications useful for treating chronic headaches? 

If you visit your doctor, the most common treatment they prescribe for headaches is ibuprofen or naproxen.

But in most cases, this is not successful long term, and the headaches return as soon as you stop taking the drug.

If your chronic headaches are severe, your doctor may also recommend the following:

  • Use of medications for seizures like topiramate and gabapentin

  • Antidepressants like nortriptyline and amitriptyline

  • Beta-blockers like metoprolol and propranolol

  • Mood stabilizers like lithium or a calcium channel blocker like Verelan (given to prevent the onset of cluster headaches)

  • Other medications to prevent migraines and cluster headaches like galcanezumab, eptinezumab, erenumab, rimegepant, fremanezumab, etc

  • Botox injections 

Rebound Headaches And Why You Should Avoid Pain Pills To Treat Headaches

Sign showing to avoid using pills

Pain medication is excellent for temporarily relieving pain, which is hugely beneficial after surgery or after acute injury or illness.

However, if you're popping pills every day to treat your headaches, it can become the cause of your headaches. That's right.

The pain medication you're taking to relieve the headache could actually be what's causing you to have persistent headaches or what doctors refer to as rebound or overuse headaches.

Ideally, you shouldn't take pain medication for more than three days a week and have a break of at least seven days before taking any more.

However, we recommend that you don't take them at all if you can help it. Instead, consult a physical therapist who can treat your headaches and prevent them from returning. 

Experts believe that chronic or constant headaches result from episodic headaches evolving into persistent ones. The causes for this are not well known, although certain factors are considered responsible for episodic headaches changing to chronic headaches, such as: 

  • Excessive and prolonged use of pain medication

  • Extremely high levels of stress

  • Excess intake of caffeine

  • Poor sleeping habits or disrupted sleep

*If you have been overusing pain medication (either OTC or prescription) and think that could cause your headaches. We recommend that you discontinue that specific medication to disrupt the cycle. But you should do this under a doctor's supervision if you have been taking pain pills to treat your headaches for a long time. 

Alternatives To Medication

woman having a head massage

Other treatment options are available for chronic headaches that don't include medication. They include:

Traditional talking therapy: Sometimes, if the cause of headaches is stress-related, talking therapy with a mental health professional or therapist can help. It can also help you cope with and develop healthy coping strategies that counteract the mental toll of daily headaches. These sessions may be one-to-one or in a group therapy setting.

Acupuncture: In this procedure, the acupuncturist inserts fine needles into specific body pressure points. But understandably, it's not for everyone.

Nerve stimulation: The nerve stimulation process uses low electrical impulses that stimulate and activate specific nerves. For instance, stimulation of the occipital nerve can benefit you if you suffer migraines. Likewise, stimulating the vagus nerve can be beneficial for cluster headaches.

Massage therapy: Massage therapy can help to relieve stress and tension in the body, which are the primary causes of headaches.

Biofeedback: Involves the use of devices to monitor various functions of the body, like muscle tension, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Supplements: Certain supplements like feverfew can contribute to decreasing the onset of migraines. But consult a professional before starting any supplement routine, especially if you’re taking medication.

How Physical Therapy Stops Daily Headaches

woman getting physical therapy for headaches

Complementary therapies like massage and acupuncture can be helpful for headaches and help you relax, which is essential when you suffer from chronic pain.

But the most effective treatment to relieve the pain and prevent headaches from returning in the future is physical therapy – starting with the identification of the root cause.

For you, it could be muscle tension, postural misalignment, or something entirely different. But the important thing is that we need to know the cause before treating your headaches and preventing them from returning.

It might seem impossible to you right now. We get it. But once we pinpoint the root cause. It's often a simple fix that we can do over just a few sessions, resulting in the daily headaches you have endured for decades becoming a thing of the past. 

Don’t believe it? Book a free consultation now to find out how we can help.

Nancy Branberg

Nancy Branberg

Nancy has long had a passion for helping people - especially those who felt they were powerless over their pain. After becoming a mom and having her own “child-birth” traumas to deal with, Nancy became interested in learning about the pelvis - not just the musculo-skeletal system, but the reproductive and digestive system as well. Every day she is amazed by the complexity and the inter-relatedness of all the systems. Nancy is Fall Church’s leading physical therapist who is able to help you overcome these problems without medication or surgery. Nancy Branberg Physical Therapy, LLC empowers women to take control of their pelvic issues so that their energy and attention can shift towards doing all of the things they love to do.
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