About 70% of the world’s population suffers from tension headaches at different periods of their lives, among which the vast majority are women aged 20 to 40. Ukrainians are no exception and the problem of this type of headache is very common in our country. As far as pain management is one of the strategic activities of the Pharmaceutical Company Darnitsa, our specialists know its nature and how to manage it.
Medically, it is customary to distinguish between two large groups of headaches, primary and secondary. Primary headaches are the most common, they are not a symptom of another disease, and develop independently. Secondary headaches develop as a result of another disease or an underlying cause of pain.
The most common primary headaches are the following: tension headache, migraine and cluster headache. A visual journey into the world of headache is in the joint project of Darnitsa and Wonderzine.
A tension headache is an official diagnosis defined by the International Classification of Diseases, although it is generally considered to be a “common headache” that more than half of the population experiences now and again. Patients describe it as head wrapping like a ring compression or creating a “helmet-like feeling of pressure”. The pain usually starts in the back of the head or forehead and spreads to the entire head within half an hour.
Tension headaches are quite often related to stress and emotional overload. Also, tension headaches are associated with overstrain of shoulders and neck muscles, which further causes pain. The risk of its occurrence, in its turn, can be increased by lack of sleep, prolonged work at the computer, and even being in an uncomfortable position. The role of the vascular component, vasospasm in particular, in the development of this type of pain has not been proven to date.
As for the treatment of a tension headache, the leading modern international guidelines recommend a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. In particular, this approach is actively used in Europe and the USA. The use of antispasmodics is not mentioned in the guidelines.
Analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or their combination with caffeine are used as pharmacological methods for management of this type of pain. For example, acetylsalicylic acid + paracetamol + caffeine. Caffeine is believed to enhance the effectiveness of such a combination. These active substances are contained in Citramon-Darnitsa and Citramon Maxi* manufactured by the Pharmaceutical Company Darnitsa.
And to reduce the risk of tension headaches, physicians recommend to use non-pharmacological methods such as identifying and preventing headache triggers: balanced diet, exercising and improving sleep patterns. Daily walks outside, neck and shoulders massage, and regular rest will also help.
However, migraines are more common in women and are less common than tension headaches. During a migraine, the headache is pulsating, and more often one-sided. It affects one half of the head. Sometimes the pain starts from the back of the head, goes to the temple and concentrates in the area of an eye. Figuratively, a migraine is sometimes described as if a wasp is biting the eye or hitting one part of the head with a hammer. Migraine is most often accompanied by nausea or vomiting, photo- and phonophobia (fear of light or sounds). Migraine headache worsens with physical overexertion.
To highly control attacks, specific medicines for migraine management such as triptans, for instance, eletriptan, can be used. Triptans affect one of the links in the migraine pathogenesis being agonists of serotonin receptors, which allow to reduce pain. They are supposed to work within two hours, so they should be taken as early as possible before the attack starts. These are prescription medicines that should be prescribed by a doctor only after a diagnosis of migraine is established. An example of such a medicine is Elptan.**
The peculiarities of migraine in women, pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods of treatment can be found in a special project of Darnitsa and Ukrainska Pravda .
A cluster headache is the most severe and, fortunately, not very common type of primary pain (according to statistics, up to 0.1% of the world prevalence).
A cluster headache also has its own specific symptoms - lacrimation, skin sweating, redness and swelling of eyes, nasal congestion. In addition, the pain is very intensive and it is manifested by a series of attacks (the so-called bundle), which last from 15 to 180 minutes and then happen again. A series of attacks can occur for several weeks or even months that is very exhausting for a person.
During an attack, a person experiences psychomotor excitement, it is difficult for a person to come to rest, he can walk or even run in circles. Cluster headaches can lead to panic attacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
*Citramon-Dartitsa, MA No. UA/6550/01/01, Citramon Maxi, MA No. UA/17370/01/01** Elptan, MA No. UA/18414/01/01, No. UA/18414/01/02, No. UA/18414/01/03