‘Chronic’ refers to something that persists for days and months on end, and with respect to headaches, chronic headaches refer to those headaches that recur with great frequency and exist for extended periods of time. A single instance of headache has the capacity to stall all work and proves to be extremely incapacitating. When persons experience several instances of moderate to severe headache over a period of time, the pain and disruption to everyday life caused due to it can be harrowing indeed.
When a person experiences headache for at least fifteen days or more during a month he or she is said to be suffering from chronic headache. A small percentage of the population is believed to be suffering from this condition on a daily basis. The dull or throbbing pain that persists for days together brings down the physical as well as the mental health of the person. Various treatment options are available to treat chronic headaches, both natural as well as medicinal.
Types of Chronic Headache
Broadly, chronic headaches are divided into the chronic tension type as well as the chronic migraine headaches.
- Chronic Tension Type Headache: This is one of the most common types of headache and most adults are known to suffer from it. Chronic daily headache can be extremely distressing as the pain is dull and persists for long periods and tends to get worse as the day progresses and can vary from moderate to severe. Physical stress and emotional anxiety are the most common causes of chronic tension type headache.
- Chronic Migraine Headaches: Persons experiencing migraine headaches without aura for over fifteen days a month with no history of medication overuse are said to be suffering from Chronic Migraine Headaches. Women are naturally predisposed to frequent headache attacks compared to men and it applies to chronic migraine as well.
- Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches are a type of vascular headache where the pain is felt in short spurts but of extreme intensity. In the chronic type, the headache occurs more frequently but no less severe.
Based on the duration, chronic headaches may be classified into those that persist for four hours or less and those that persist for longer periods.
Headaches that persist for over four hours duration
- Chronic migraine or transformed migraine
- Daily persistent headache
- Chronic tension type headache
- Hemicrania continua
Headaches that occur for less than four hours include
- Chronic cluster headache
- Unilateral neuralgial headache attacks, and
- Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania
Causes of Chronic Headache
Several reasons, individually or in combination, may result in chronic headache. Some of the possible of chronic headache are:
Injury or Trauma to the Brain: Extensive trauma to the brain is one of the major causes of chronic headache. When the pressure inside or around the cranial cavity is increased, headaches are caused and certain pre existing conditions such as brain tumor, can result in and aggravate chronic secondary headaches. Not only high pressure in the cranium, but excessively low intracranial pressure also gives rise to chronic headaches.
Infections: Certain disease conditions such meningitis and encephalitis, along with the other undesirable symptoms also give rise to a dull persistent, headache. Meningitis and encephalitis are conditions where the brain gets inflamed wither due to bacterial or viral infections and such an inflammation of the brain results in chronic headache.
Medicinal Treatments for Chronic Headache
Abortive as well as preventive treatments options are available to treat chronic headaches. Several topical preparations, in the form of creams along with oral medications are used to treat gnawing headaches. Most commonly, analgesics are used to treat the persisting pain. However, it should be in moderation as over use can induce another form of headache which in greater in intensity and recur more frequently.
Prophylactic medication is strongly recommended for those who are naturally predisposed in order to reduce the frequency and intensity of the pain attack.
Non Medical Interventions
Headaches can be brought under control using various techniques, ranging from massage and aromatherapy to acupuncture and reflexology. Find below few headache remedies:
- Yoga and Meditation are believed to have immense potential to treat chronic migraine as well as the tension type headache. The Suryanamaskar and the Bhujangasana work on the neck and back, thereby helping to relieve the stress and stiffness of the muscles in the are and improve the blood flow.
- Pranayama and breathing techniques are very important when it comes to relaxing the mind as well as the body and provide immense relief from the daily ordeal of chronic headaches if practiced regularly.
- Aromatherapy is usually not given its due and is taken too lightly. For people suffering from chronic headaches, even small things and changes matter a lot and aromatherapy has loads to offer. The aromas of essential oils soothe the senses and bring the body as well as the mind to a relaxed state. Essential oils of wintergreen, rosemary, eucalyptus and lavender are most commonly used to treat chronic headache troubles. They can be massaged into the forehead, focusing on the pressure points above the bridge of the nose, back of the ears as well as the temples. Essential oil infused steam inhalation can be extremely effective in treating chronic sinus headaches and migraine.
- Acupuncture uses pressure points on the body to relieve the pain and ease the associated tension. Acupuncture is effective in treating and ameliorating long term, chronic headaches and also is successful in reducing the frequency of the attacks. Reflexology is another potent option. This uses points on the fingers and the feet and techniques of massage and relaxation are used that control the pain in the head. Both acupuncture and reflexology are extremely promising options to deal with the everyday trauma of chronic headaches.
Chronic headache can be a persistent pain and people suffering from it will look for ways to minimize the pain and disruption caused due to it in all possible quarters. Some of the home remedies can provide effective relief from this form of headache.
- Ripe apples early in the morning in an empty stomach with common salt is considered to be an effective remedy for chronic headaches.
- Lemon is one of the most common remedy of any type of headache and more specifically for heat induced headaches.
- Chronic sinusitis induced headaches can be ameliorized by steam inhalation, done at least thrice a day, continuously for an extended period of time. Essential oil infused steam inhalation is most effective where essential oils of eucalyptus, wintergreen and peppermint may be used to clear the nasal congestion and the resultant headache. Ginger extract steam inhalation is one of the strongest home remedies for chronic headache.
- Applying a pack made of basil, cinnamon, lemon and water treats headaches that tend to persist for longer durations and reduces the intensity of the pain as well.
- When the muscles are stiff and tight, they aggravate the headache further. Exercising the head, neck and the upper back region improves the blood flow to the head and the neck area and relieves muscle spasms as well as stiffness. Poor posture may contribute to worsening the pain and hence it is recommended to make the necessary posture corrections to reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic tension type headaches.
The distress of chronic and persistent headache can take a heavy toll on the individual. Quick fix solutions should be avoided and a medical professional should be consulted in cases of severe persistent headaches as they may be indicative of certain underlying disease conditions of the body. All options, from medical to non medical ways of managing chronic pain should be explored to find a lasting solution for the debilitating problem.