Think you’re a victim of sinus headaches? Think again. According to research, there’s no such thing. Read on to find out what else you didn’t know about all that throbbing and pounding.
1. Fifty percent of people with migraines don’t realize they have them.
Current stats show that more than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraines, with three times as many women affected as men. This type of headache causes throbbing pain on one side of your head as well as nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light— but you don’t have to experience all of these symptoms for the headache to be a migraine. “Many people mistakenly assume they’re having tension headaches,” says Jason Rosenberg, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Headache Center. If the pain is bad enough to make you skip work or other activities, definitely talk to your doctor.
2. There’s no such thing as a “sinus headache.”
Over 90 percent of people who think they have sinus headaches (not sinus infections) have migraines; the others are probably experiencing tension headaches. Migraine pain is often located over the sinuses, which is why people frequently mistake it for sinus pain. If you get better with so-called “sinus” medications, it’s because these contain a pain reliever. For long-term relief, you’ll need specific headache treatment.
3. What you eat could be to blame.
Many foods contain chemicals that can trigger migraines and possibly other types of headaches. Some foods to watch out for: deli meats and hot dogs (which have nitrates), Chinese food (which may contain monosodium glutamate, a.k.a. MSG) and sugar-free foods sweetened with aspartame or sucralose. If you’re headacheprone, also avoid tyramine, a natural compound in foods such as citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, processed meats, aged cheeses, onions and nuts. Keep in mind that triggers are individual; track what you eat in a journal to sort it out.
4. Smokers are at higher risk for a rare but scary type of headache.
Only 1 in 1,000 people get cluster headaches, but they happen to smokers more often. Symptoms include intense pain on one side of the head and feeling agitated or angry (sufferers may even harm themselves or others). Think you’re having a cluster headache? Go to your doctor’s office or the ER immediately—you’ll probably need an oxygen mask or an injection of Imitrex.
5. Some headaches warrant a visit to the ER.
If you experience any of these symptoms, a hospital visit may be in order: It’s severe and comes on extremely suddenly (experts call this a “thunderclap”); it crops up immediately after exerting yourself (like after lifting a heavy piece of furniture); or it’s so bad that it wakes you up from sleep. Any of these could indicate a life-threatening condition like an aneurysm (a ballooning blood vessel in the brain), so best get immediate attention.
6. Physical therapy could take care of your headaches for you
Physical therapy is definitely worth trying when headaches are too often a part of your everyday life! Treatment at Mathis for headaches can be extremely effective and work quickly. Some patients have come into the clinic with a headache in their first visit and left without one! However, persistent headaches that are musculoskeletal in nature and have been occurring for a long time may not go away completely until they are addressed with therapy.