Facts and myths about headaches

Headaches: Setting the record straight

We all know that headaches can be irritating, painful, and distracting. There’s plenty of misinformation out there about why headaches arise and how they can be treated – and that only adds to the headache!

You may have heard that headaches come exclusively from caffeine – or that only women can get migraines. Are these fact or fiction? Read below to learn the truth about headaches – and how you can actually overcome them without junk science.

What actually is a headache?

You know the feeling that comes with a headache – a mild or throbbing pain in your head that distracts you and makes everything exhausting. But what actually happens in your head?

The truth is, it isn’t really your brain hurting. When you get a headache, certain nerves become activated or agitated, upsetting your blood vessels and muscles near the brain. In other words, your nervous system is overwhelmed with signals relating to pain.

Below, we’ve put the rumours to rest and separated myths from facts.

MYTH: ‘Migraine’ is another word for ‘headache’

One of the most common misconceptions about headaches is that migraines are essentially the same thing.

In reality, a migraine is a specific phenomenon, and headaches are merely a symptom of them. Migraines are technically a neurological disease involving nerve pathways and chemicals, and they change brain activity. Have no fear, though – your doctor can help you treat your migraine.

FACT: Low blood sugar can cause headaches

Sugar isn’t just a sweetener for your coffee – it’s also an important part of your body’s chemistry.

Blood sugar helps regulate the body’s organs, muscles, and nervous system. If your blood sugar is too low, or it is fluctuating, you might find that you get a nasty headache.

MYTH: All migraines are caused by something specifically

While migraines might be triggered by something – stress, alcohol, hormonal changes, or sleep deprivation, to name a few – many migraines are simply caused by natural or semi-natural changes in the body.

FACT: Chiropractors can help you fight against headaches

You might associate chiropractors with healing back pain, but they can help with headaches too. That’s because the work that chiropractors do actually targets the spinal cord, which is severely important to what goes on with the nervous system.

A chiropractor may perform spinal manipulative therapy or similar approaches to treat your headaches.

MYTH: Caffeine causes headaches

Have you ever heard someone blame their headache on the large cup of Joe they had that morning? The truth is, the science is still out on whether or not there’s actually a link between caffeine and headaches.

Some studies show that caffeine overconsumption can worsen a headache, while others point out that caffeine reduces inflammation, easing headaches. Some doctors might even suggest drinking coffee, depending on what kind of headaches you get!

FACT: Physiotherapists can help fight against headaches

Like chiropractors, physiotherapists can help you tackle that pesky headache. There’s usually a link between a headache and the rest of your body – and a physiotherapist can help you determine what stretches or movements can ease that pain.

READ MORE: How physiotherapy can help stroke survivors

MYTH: Only women get migraines

This one’s a little silly, but many still believe this myth to be true. Some think that no matter how bad a man’s headache gets, it can’t be classified as a migraine. This is untrue!

Plenty of research shows that women develop migraines more frequently than men, but both groups are susceptible to this type of headache.

FACT: Migraines affect 20% of the population

It’s true – migraines aren’t rare at all, unfortunately. Migraines are believed to affect about 20 percent of the population – or 1 in 5 people.

MYTH: Headaches will always go away on their own

In most cases, you can simply wait out your headache. However, some headaches seem like they just won’t go away – and when this happens, you need to take action. You may choose to treat your headache with over-the-counter pain medication or see a doctor if you believe your headache has no signs of stopping.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about fibromyalgia

Conclusion

We can all agree that life would be much easier if headaches never happened. Since they do, though, one of the best ways to prepare yourself to deal with them is by understanding how headaches really work. Don’t fall for the myths out there – take proactive steps against your headaches with factual information.

At Elysian Wellness Centre, our team of physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other specialists are dedicated to helping you achieve the comfort and mobility you deserve.

Contact us today to find out how we can support you.

Michael McCreight, Registered Physiotherapist

Mike is an experienced and talented physiotherapist who holds a BSc in human kinetics and an MSc in physiotherapy. He doesn't believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach and is committed to providing client-centred care, tailoring each treatment plan to each patient’s unique needs and personal goals.

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