We’ve all had them. From slightly annoying to utterly debilitating – headaches are everywhere. Approximately 75 percent of adults report having at least one headache per month. Headaches are common and can usually be treated with an over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Excedrin. Excedrin, “the headache medicine,” is particularly effective for certain types of headaches in that each pill combines caffeine with medication to constrict cranial blood vessels, thereby releasing pressure, which is associated with pain.

Headaches can be caused by a variety of factors, from stress or tension, to skipping a meal, lack of sleep, caffeine, drugs or alcohol, actual illness such as an oncoming cold or flu, eyestrain, dental or jaw problems – or even nothing at all. Although treating an immediate headache is usually top priority, understanding the underlying cause of your headache is the key to long-term care and prevention. If you find that you are getting headaches more than you’re accustomed to, pay closer attention to where the pain resides, what triggers the pain and what makes it go away. Notice if the pain centers around your eyes or down by the base of your neck. If your pain is associated with intense nausea and a sensitivity to light, explore the possibility of a migraine – a specific type of headache that can be controlled with prescription medication.

Be sure to contact your primary care provider if your headaches are disrupting your academic, social or personal life. These could be signs of an underlying medical problem. Yes, headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. Pay attention to your body, and use your head to protect it.

Newman works in the Health Promotion Office of the University Health Service and can be reached at jnewman@campustimes.org.



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