Migraines are easily confused with other headaches, both by their sufferers and, occasionally, medical professionals. Here you’ll find descriptions of some of the more common non-migraines and some treatment options.Remember to consult with your physician when exploring treatment options such as non-prescription analgesics for mild to moderate migraine pain or prescription triptans such as Ammerge, Imitrex or Zomig for moderate to severe attacks.
Cluster headaches are unusual: they are one of the few types that affect men more than women. They cause severe pain around the eyes, temple, forehead and cheeks. Attacks last between thirty to ninety minutes, and can occur one to six times a day. A cluster can occur for weeks or even months at a time, and then suddenly stop, only to reoccur months later. Heavy smoking and alcohol consumption appear to worsen symptoms.
Treatment focuses mostly on prevention: over the counter analgesics do not act fast enough to treat cluster headaches. Some sufferers find inhaling 100% oxygen provides some relief. The migraine medication sumatriptan may also be used. Sumatriptan is a very specific prescription-only analgesic: the medication only relieves the pain of migraine and cluster headaches. In order to enter the bloodstream fast enough to treat the symptoms, sumatriptan is available as a nasal spray, injectable or rectal suppository.
Tension headaches are caused by muscle contractions around the neck, scalp and jaw. The pain is often described as a dull pressure, or as if a tight “hat band” were strapped around the head. Unlike migraines, which generally cause pain only on one side of the head, this type affects both sides of the head.
Treatment often centers on prevention. Stress, depression and anxiety can all aggravate muscle tension. Stress management and relaxation exercises may help reduce muscle tension. While antidepressants are not a direct treatment, if depression or anxiety aggravates muscle tension, antidepressants may help. Research indicates that combining antidepressants with stress management is very helpful in treating chronic cases.
The most common medications used, however, are over-the-counter analgesics. Painkillers, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, work well to reduce both pain and muscle tension. Excessive use of analgesics can, however, lead to a rebound effect.
A sinus headache is caused by inflammation of sinus tissues, either due to bacterial infection or allergic reactions. The pain is usually a dull ache, but can become intense. People often attempt to treat sinus pain with aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, which are generally ineffective. Instead, antibiotics (for infections), steam, increased humidity, and nasal decongestants are better choices.
Both tension headaches and migraines are often mistaken for sinus headaches by the people who suffer from them. Misdiagnosis by doctors is not uncommon.