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Mind & Body Health
Help for Headache Sufferers

“My head is splitting open.”

“It feels as if a hot iron were pressed to my temples.”

These are comments made by those people who suffer severe headaches. Almost everyone has experienced a headache at one time or another, but more than 30 million people in the United States suffer the incapacitating agony of recurring head pain.

Pain of the head, face and neck is one of the most intense forms of pain one can experience, and may make it difficult to carry out normal living. Headache is one of the most common complaints presented at a doctor’s office, and is the most common reason that people are absent from their job. Headache pain is real, not imagined. There is no need to be embarrassed about experiencing this common condition. Many famous people and celebrities are as familiar with headache pain, as familiar as you are with their names.

Headache pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong. Headaches may be an inherited sensitivity to pain in the muscles or blood vessels. Or headache pain may be a symptom of a more severe medical problem. An attempt to treat headaches should begin with a medical screening. A medical screening should be sought immediately if sever headache pain is new and rapidly changing or is accompanied by major vision difficulties, difficulties operating arms or legs, slurred speech, vomiting, or following a major blow to the head or major changes in personality or memory.

Many headaches require a trigger for the headache to begin, which is most often emotional stress in the life of the headache sufferer. Often common triggers may include diet and posture. Stress is often a major trigger, even if the headaches do not seem to occur at the most stressful moments, or seem to occur on weekends or on vacation.

Most headaches have been traditionally classified as either tension or migraine (also referred to as vascular) headaches. The neck and shoulders may frequently hurt or be tender, as a part of either type of headache. Tension headaches most often involve a steady feeling of pressure or pain that may seem to center in the front, back or entirely around the head. A tension headache also intensifies during the day, and lessens at night.

Vascular or migraine headache sufferers are more likely to have a history of similar headaches in the family. Headaches tend to throb or pound and may be accompanied by stomach upset, sensitivity to light and sound, and may leave the sufferer out of sorts or exhausted for hours or days. Migraine headaches may be proceeded by vision problems or unusual patterns in the visual field, as well as numbness and tingling for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of the headache.

Treatment of headaches usually begins with medical screening, followed by the taking of a headache history and a headache daily diary. Most effective further treatment for headache often involves types of relaxation and biofeedback, as well as many other methods of stress management. Learn more about how to manage stress. A psychotherapist can consult with your physician regarding types of medications that may be effective in preventing the beginning of a headache or stopping the headache just as it begins. Unfortunately, for some people, these medications have side effects or are of limited value. A psychotherapist experienced with headache patients can often provide a partial or complete alternative for the use of these headache medications. The good news for those who suffer headaches is that it is quite likely that the headaches can be greatly improved through the teamwork of an experienced psychotherapist and the physician.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.