Headaches From Your Medicine Cabinet-Not From Your Head!

Posted by Robin Quivers on Apr 11, 2016

A friend has migraines. She started getting them as a kid and they've come back.

She is not alone.

Headaches affect 38 million[i] and 25% of households have someone suffering in the U.S. including men (6%),  27 million women (18%) and children.

Half of those who had migraines had them before age 12. The severity of headaches are stronger in girls after adolescence due to estrogen levels. robinwomenwithheadache-406027-edited.jpgMigraines are thought[ii] to be caused by activating a mechanism in the brain that releases pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels in the head.   

A Times article[iii] stated that neurolgists are clear that migraines are real and debilitating due to temporary abnormal brain activity but even though they may be linked to hormone fluctuations during the month, they have nothing to do with emotions as has been explained for centuries.

Medicines that have been around like Fiorinal, that have been given to women for decades and now are known to CAUSE headaches rather than cure them strikes us as a gender issue.

Maybe gender bias and the "its all in your head" thinking that has been around for centuries especially about women and their ailments. 

A shift in hormones starts a chain of events which activates specific areas of the brain and sends messages to other areas to interpret them as pain.

The networks in the brain that control all the sensory amplification activate and because the brain is so interconnected there are many symptoms possible with headaches. 

Light does not cause a headache per se--but it is rather the 'kick off' of the networks.

[iv] Thinking of triggers causing pain insinuates that the pain is all our fault and this is not accurate. Emotions can shift the hormones starting a chain of events to activate neurons. 

Headaches have been found at higher rates in people aged 25-55 and World Health Organization says it is usually 35-45 year olds who are affected.  It can be genetic in 50% of cases.Robin50_Have_Headaches-509284-edited.jpgHeadaches are a real public health issue. Headache pain can be serious and disabling and it is noted that every 10 seconds someone goes to the emergency room due to headache.

14 million people have headaches at least half the month or more. 

90% of these people cannot work or function well. 

People can also have throbbing, dizziness, light and sound or smell sensitivity and nausea, and numbness in the face or extremities, sweating and word retrieval challenges.

This can start with an aura of visual disturbances[v]. Costs are estimated at $50 billion per year for this chronic illness challenge, using twice the medical resources including meds and doctor visits as non-headache sufferers.

WHO[vi]says clearly that headaches are under-treated and under-recognized globally as at least 50% of the world suffers.
There are tension headaches and cluster headaches and medication overdose headaches[vii]. Research indicates that 25% of headaches are caused by the rebound affect from overuse of common prescription and over the counter medicines for headaches. robinmedicines-588143-edited.jpgWhen headaches are present for over 15 days per month and people are taking pain meds for 3 months or more (50% of the time at least), an overuse of taking many pills can CAUSE the headache.

The recommendation is to STOP the pain medicines for 2 months to see if there is improvement. 

Doctors can help wean patients off reducing thedose or by using Topamax medicine to lessen frequency of attacks  or Botox scalp injections.  

Drugs with caffeine like Excedrine and triptans are associated with rebounding or pain coming back worse after treatments.  

Prescription medicine as Butalbital and Fioricet are also causes of rebound. It takes two months or so to wean. Groundbreaking is that in one study 87 percent of patients reported significant improvement two years after stopping overuse of painkillers.

Other triggers that can cause brain stimulation to induce headaches can include: jaw disorders, odors, bright lights, smoking, sleep changes, exercise, missed meals, fermented foods, MSG, chocolate, nuts and dairy.

A new study shows salt increase related to migraine decrease. Other foods stimulating are those with tyramine including: red wines, aged cheese, chicken livers, smoked fish, figs, avocado banana, nitrites, citus fruit,

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[i] Migraine Research Foundation-Migraine Fact Sheet

[ii] World Health Organization-Headache Disorders Fact Sheet April 2016

[iii] Women’s Emotions Do Not Cause Their Migraines. By Joanna Klein April 6, 2016

[iv] Dr. William B. Young Jefferson Health Care Center in Philadelphia

[v] Times Health Guide Migraine Peter Jaret April 11, 2016

[vi] World Health Organization-Headache Disorders Fact Sheet April 2016

[vii] A Hidden Cause of Headache Pain. The New York Times. 2007 Peter Jaret


Topics: womens health, mens health, teen health