A woman with a headache holding her head

Headaches – Types and Ways to Treat Them

Migraines and headaches are fairly common disorders of the nervous system. In fact, the National Headache Foundation reports almost 40 million Americans currently suffer from migraine and headache disorders. Knowing the type of headache you’re suffering from may be the best way to determine how to treat the issue.

Nurse Practitioner Brandy M. Magee, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, works closely with patients who suffer from migraines and headaches at Bayhealth Neurology, which now provides support and care in the outpatient setting.

Here is a list of the four most common forms of migraines:

Tension Headache
Tension headaches are marked with dull pain, tightness, or pressure around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. This type of pain is often precipitated by stress. You may also notice muscle tenderness in the head, neck and shoulders.

Complex Migraine
Complex migraines can last hours to days with aura. Migraine aura symptoms include disturbances, such as intense pain, nausea, and sensitivity to sight or sound, shortly before a migraine hits. Symptoms of a complex migraine include unilateral weakness after a headache, vision changes, numbness, difficulty speaking, and lethargy.

Atypical Migraine
Patients suffering from atypical migraines, also known as common migraines, will show signs of spinning sensations, slowed or slurred speech, ringing or buzzing in the ears, blurred vision, and hearing changes.

Trigeminal Neuralgia
This is the most common form of cluster migraine and features recurring sudden attacks of facial pain; this pain will be felt in multiple spots along the trigeminal nerve. This pain can last from a second to two minutes and be severe in intensity. The pain can feel like an electric shock, or a shooting, stabbing or sharp pain. This pain can be triggered by simple movements like brushing teeth or talking. With trigeminal neuralgia, a person may experience a painful migraine, runny nose and teary eyes.

What people fail to realize is that there’s no specific medication for management of migraines. “Each patient is different and requires an individualized plan of care. There may be underlying comorbidities contributing to the headache and other risk factors at play,” Magee said. “Based on these other factors, we’ll try different medications with a goal of optimizing migraine occurrences while minimizing side effects of medications.”

There are non-pharmacological modifications a person can take to deal with migraines. These include maintaining a daily sleep schedule, eating regular meals, doing aerobic exercises, and living a low-stress lifestyle. It’s important to avoid common food triggers, such as processed meats, aged cheeses, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine overuse/withdrawal. Patients can also use natural supplements following consultation with a physician.

If headaches or migraines become frequent and reach the point where the pain is impacting a person’s mood and life functionality, Magee says it’s time to see a doctor. Community members can begin by visiting their primary care physician. Bayhealth Neurology does offer outpatient services with a referral from a primary care physician. If you’re in need of a primary care physician, Bayhealth can help. Visit Bayhealth's Find A Doctor page or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) to be matched with a doctor who fits your needs.

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