5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Headaches
Most people have headaches on and off throughout their
lives. In general, they can be dealt with easily with over-the-counter pain
relievers and lifestyle changes. However, a doctor should assess any frequent
or severe headaches. You should also see a doctor if the pattern of your
headaches changes suddenly. This can be a sign of more serious illness.
If you’re seeing a doctor about headaches, it’s probably
because you want to learn more about your condition. Here are five questions
you may want to ask.
How Much Medication Can I Take?
Medication overuse is a big problem for people with
frequent headaches. What you may not
realize is that too much can actually make your pain worse. If your body
becomes accustomed to the medicine, rebound headaches may occur when it wears
off. It’s therefore very important to discuss your medication use with your
doctor. The amount you can take safely varies from drug to drug. The length of
time you can take a drug safely varies as well.
Rebound headaches are not the only potential problem
associated with medication overuse. Some of the more powerful painkillers used
for migraines and cluster headaches also carry the risk of dependency and
What if My Medication Doesn't Work?
Your prescribed medication should offer prompt relief from
headache symptoms. If it does not, talk to your doctor. Depending on the
medication, you may be able to try another dose. Your doctor may also prescribe
a backup medication.
If you have frequent medication failures, you may need
to switch to a different drug. Not all headache medications work for everyone,
and it can take time to find the drug that will work best for you.
Could Some Other Disease Be Causing My Headaches?
Primary headaches are classified
into the following groups and are not generally related to other diseases:
- tension headaches
- cluster headaches
Secondary headaches are symptoms of
another disorder. A large range of medical problems can cause secondary headaches,
- brain aneurysm
- alcohol hangover
If an underlying disease is causing
your headaches, it's important to identify and treat it. Consider reporting any
unusual headache symptoms to a doctor.
Are There Alternative Treatments That Might Help?
Not all headaches need to be
treated with prescription medication. Some people have had success using
alternative treatments for headache pain, such as:
In addition, several supplements have
made claims to reduce either the severity or frequency of migraine pain for
some individuals. These include:
- coenzyme Q10
However, it’s important to talk to
your doctor before trying alternative treatments or supplements. Reports of success
are often anecdotal. Also, herbal treatments can have significant side effects.
For example, pregnant women can use neither butterbur nor feverfew safely. There
is also the possibility that any supplement you are taking might be contributing
to, rather than improving, your headache symptoms.
What Symptoms Indicate An Emergency?
Suffering from frequent headaches can be extremely
stressful, and not only because of the pain. It can also be difficult to
distinguish between a "normal" headache and one that might indicate a
Ask your doctor about what symptoms you should watch for
to indicate a serious condition, such as an aneurysm or stroke. There are
subtle differences in the type and location of pain based on the underlying
cause of the headache.