When Should I Be Worried
Long-lasting headaches are common, with about 15% of adults in the United States experiencing migraines or severe headaches each year.
However, you should seek immediate medical attention if youre experiencing a particularly intense headache or if your headache involves:
pain lasting longer than 72 hours, with a pain-free period shorter than 4 hours
any symptom that is frightening and abnormal for you
If you have a concerning headache alongside an autoimmune, liver, kidney, or heart condition, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
How To Cope With Long
Even if its not a medical emergency, a headache that persists can take a real toll on your quality of life. For example, people with migraine know that when their headache begins they may lose a sizable chunk of productive work or family time. Arranging for strategies to cope for one day might be bearable, but being out of commission for two or even three days can be more difficult. Even the worry over an impending migraine, especially for those whose headaches are long or severe, can interfere with daily life.
Here are some ways to cope with a longer-lasting headache.
Menstrual Migrainemigraine Before A Period
Menstrual migraine attacks occur in the two days before a womans period and the first three days of flow. These are times when estrogen levels drop. These attacks are generally more intense and longer than attacks at other times of the month. Attacks can also happen during and after a period.
Keep a headache and cycle diary if you think your migraine attacks are related to your menstrual cycle. Note the timing and specific symptoms, as this may help your doctor determine whether you have menstrual migraine and which treatment is best for you.
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When Should I Seek Immediate Help Or Contact My Healthcare Provider
Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider if:
- The number or severity of your migraines increase, or your headache pattern changes.
- Youre experiencing new or different side effects.
- Your medications no longer seem to be working.
- Your headache comes on suddenly.
- You are experiencing the worst headache of my life.
- You have a headache after experiencing a head injury.
- You are having neurologic symptoms that you have never had before, including speaking difficulty, balance problems, vision problems, mental confusion, seizures, or numbing/tingling sensations.
Concussions And Other Head Injuries
If youve recently experienced a concussion or similar head injury, you could be dealing with an ongoing headache. This is called post-concussion syndrome, and its a mild injury to your brain caused by the initial trauma. It can last for months after a concussion possibly up to a year.
Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include:
- recurrent or ongoing headaches
A variety of treatment options, including home treatments and medical care, can help relieve symptoms of a prolonged headache.
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Complementary Menstrual Migraine Treatments
There are many different approaches to help manage menstrual migraine some involve medicinal treatments and others do not. Often it may involve a combination.
Rest assure that it is possible to reduce and in some cases eliminate menstrual migraine. But it may involve working with a specialist and some trial and error.
Complementary approaches for those with menstrual migraine include:
- Dietary changes
- Other natural therapies
Most women with menstrual migraine have a healthy hormonal balance. However, if there is an imbalance of estrogen in relation to progesterone then a healthy diet is the first step . What we eat plays a huge role in our overall health and wellbeing.
Nothing else affects our health more than what we eat.
If you experience migraine attacks then your diet can be important.
We hear all the time from the health community something like eat a varied and well-balanced diet to help prevent disease. Its been said so many times we can become numb to this important advice.
To complicate things, some healthy foods may also act as triggers. Finding out which foods trigger attacks is not always easy.
What Causes Chronic Headaches
The cause of chronic headaches can be a head-scratcher. Its estimated that only 10 percent of headaches have a known underlying cause.
There are, however, certain risk factors that may trigger persistent headaches, including:
- Fluctuating hormonal changes, especially when estrogen falls around the time a woman has her period
- Too much caffeine and alcohol
- Weather changes
Another cause of chronic headaches is overuse of pain medication. While prescription and over-the-counter pain medication can relieve discomfort, long-term use can make things worse for headache sufferers. Medication overuse headaches, or rebound headaches, can occur when pain medication is taken for more than three days a week, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
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When A Headache Might Be Something Serious
In the vast majority of cases, a headache isn’t a sign of a serious problem. But, rarely, it can be a symptom of a condition such as a stroke, meningitis, or a brain tumour.
A headache is more likely to be serious if:
- it occurs suddenly and is very severe often described as a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- it doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
- it’s triggered suddenly by coughing, laughing, sneezing, changes in posture, or physical exertion
- the headache is consistently worse in the morning, or present when you wake up
- you have symptoms suggesting a problem with your brain or nervous system, including weakness, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss, and drowsiness
- you have additional symptoms, such as a high temperature , a stiff neck, a rash, jaw pain while chewing, vision problems, a sore scalp, or severe pain and redness in one of your eyes
If you’re concerned that your headache might be serious, you should seek immediate medical advice. Contact your GP or GP out of hours service as soon as possible, or go to your nearest emergency department.
Preventative Menstrual Migraine Treatments
Triptans: This medication can also be taken to prevent future migraines from happening. In one study, using triptans for a few days before the start of the period helped reduce both severity and frequency of menstrual migraine headaches .
Hormone stabilization techniques: Preventative treatment using hormone therapy may help to decrease the frequency of severe menstrual migraines. In one study, researchers looked at how two treatments with hormonal contraception affected migraines. The majority of participants were prescribed combined oral contraceptives and additionally took estrogen during the week of their withdrawal bleed , which helped to make the drop in estrogen less severe. Fewer participants used the estrogen patch during their normal menstrual period to prevent the drop in hormones. Among all participants, eight out of 10 people reported a decrease in their menstrual migraines and were able to reduce their pain-medication use by half .
Continuous birth control: Using a form of continuous/extended-use birth control may be an option to decrease menstrually related migraine attacks or headaches. People who took extended use combined oral contraceptives had fewer headache symptoms, and were more productive . Talk to your healthcare provider about extended use hormonal birth control, though this may not be the right therapy for everyone, especially those with migraine with auraâsee the section below on hormonal birth control for more info.
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What Else Should I Know
When your child has a splitting headache, it’s easy to worry. But headaches rarely are a symptom of something serious.
- are happening a lot more than usual
- don’t go away easily
- are very painful
- happen mostly in the morning
Also note whether other symptoms happen with the headaches. This can help the doctor find what might be causing them. Call the doctor if your child has a headache and:
- seems less alert than usual
- got the headache after a head injury or loss of consciousness
More Menstrual Migraine Prevention Tips
A few other things you can try at home to prevent menstrual migraines:
- Exercise every day. Moderate exercise, like a walk, bike ride, or swim, could help you have fewer migraine headaches and make them less intense. Be careful not to work out too hard, though. Sometimes strenuous exercise can trigger migraines.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. A lack of rest can set off migraine attacks.
- Relax. Stress leads to migraine for many people. Try techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation to take the pressure off.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid foods that trigger your headaches. Some foods that are common migraine triggers include: chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, processed meat, and cheeses.
- Graze throughout the day. Hunger can give you headaches. Eat several small meals and snacks instead of three big ones.
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Heres What To Do When Youre Dealing With Persistent Headache During Your Period
If you get a PMS headache or migraine every time you have your period or are getting close to having it, it gives you nothing to look forward to during this whole week of the month. Thats a bit sad but this article is here to give you hope and relief.
In some ways, having a headache before, during or after menstruation is similar to being a man and having a headache. Thats because there are anatomical and physiological reasons why people get headaches. As examples, some potential causes are the following: forward head position , low blood sugar, low protein levels, trigger points in the neck, back and shoulder muscles, and hormone imbalances).
Treatment For Hormonal And Menstrual Migraine
If you experience migraine attacks associated with your menstrual cycle or hormone changes in perimenopause , talk to your doctor about treatment options. You dont have to accept migraine attacks as a part of your hormonal shifts each month or your transition to menopause. There are many options for acute and preventive treatments.
Oral tablets, injectables and nasal sprays can provide acute relief when an attack occurs. But preventive treatments can also be helpful for hormonal and menstrual migraine. In a mini-prevention approach, a woman will take medication, either NSAIDs, estrogen supplementation, triptans or do short-term prevention with rimegepant in the days leading up to her period. Taking magnesium from day 15 of the menstrual cycle through the next period is another mini-prevention strategy. This relies on the timing of the previous period, so it can be a good option for those with irregular periods. Note that none of these approaches are FDA-approved at this time, and they are not recommended in women who have migraine with aura or other risk factors for stroke.
Taking estrogen to stabilize hormone levels doesnt always work to treat migraine. Whether its from birth control or HRT, estrogen can have an unpredictable effect. It may decrease migraine frequency, trigger attacks or do nothing at all. Your doctor can help you find the proper treatment based on your migraine symptoms, menstrual or perimenopausal symptoms, cycle timing and personal risk factors.
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Protect Your Sleep Stress And Hydration
There is always a stress factor at play when we see migraines and menses interacting. Lower the total perceived and experienced stress your body is experiencing by going through different areas of stress in your life and cutting your load. Get adequate rest so your body has time to repair. Hydration to ensure all the necessary minerals are absorbed into your tissues. With stress reduction, sleep, and hydration your body will begin to regulate itself and heal.
Hormonal Headache Vs Menstrual Migraine
While a hormonal headache and a menstrual migraine are both caused by fluctuating hormones, the difference between the two involves the severity of the head pain.
A hormonal headache may be mild to moderate and cause a nagging ache or throb. Its a nuisance and uncomfortable, but it might not interfere with your day-to-day routine.
A menstrual migraine, on the other hand, can be debilitating. According to the National Headache Foundation, menstrual migraine affects about 60 percent of women.
If you regularly experience migraine attacks, you may be susceptible to menstrual migraine.
A menstrual migraine differs from a regular migraine in that it isnt usually associated with an aura. Aura refers to flashing lights, zigzag lines, or other sensory experiences that some people experience before a migraine attack.
A menstrual migraine is characterized by severe throbbing that can start on one side of the forehead and travel to the other. The severity can make it difficult to keep your eyes open, work, or even think.
Treatment for a hormonal headache and a menstrual migraine depend on the severity.
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Menstrual Migraine Is Tough To Treat
Menstrual and menstrually related migraine can be the hardest kind of migraine to treat. can be pretty severe, they can last several days, and they can be quite debilitating, she says.
Even if you have migraine attacks only around the time of your period, for many women that may still mean five days or more a month, says Hindiyeh. In that case, its really time to talk to your doctor about daily preventive treatment options for migraine, she says.
Generally speaking, there are many treatment options for the prevention of migraine and menstrual migraine, says Hindiyeh. Heres a rundown of top medications and lifestyle modifications that can help reduce the frequency and severity of menstrual and menstrually related migraine attacks.
Keep Your Glutamate Levels Low
Glutamate has been implicated as one of the main migraine triggers since the 1970s. Our brain has glutamate scavengers that help clear of any excesses of glutamate. One study published in Biology of Reproduction found that estrogen and progesterone are neuroprotective and serve as glutamate scavengers. When these hormones drop dramatically close to the last and first days of the menstrual cycle, glutamate can build up in neurons, causing damage. Avoid any large sources of glutamate or synthetic forms found in eggs, milk, wheat, and soy products.
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Oral Contraceptives May Reduce Menstrual Migraine Frequency
There is some evidence to suggest that certain types of oral contraceptive pills can actually reduce the frequency of menstrual migraine and menstrually related migraine, Hindiyeh says.
This doesnt apply to all kinds of oral contraception, so you should talk with your gynecologist, primary care doctor, or neurologist about which ones youd want to consider, says Hindiyeh. There are specific ones that will keep your estrogen level from fluctuating so much, she adds.
If youre considering taking oral contraceptives as a means of birth control or to try to improve your migraine symptoms, tell your healthcare provider about your migraine history, says Hindiyeh.
What Can You Do To Treat It
The type of treatment you use when a headache wont go away depends on the type of headache you have. There are some great techniques that you can use over the long term or short term that can stop the pain before it gets out of control.
1. Have a Good Rest
When your headache strikes, lie down on a bed or couch for half an hour. Shut the lights off, close the blinds and pay attention to your breathing. This is a sensory reduction technique that can help relaxation and healing. Make sure you ask for people to be quiet around you. Tell them you are having a headache and cant be disturbed. Try to take a quick nap in a bed or couch that is easy to lie on and that supports your neck.
2. Compress with Cool Things
When the headache wont go away, it is a good idea to put a cold compress over your eyes and forehead. This can cause blood vessel constriction and will lessen the inflammation that causes your headache to occur. Just lay a damp cloth over the area that hurts and let it cool the area. Another technique is to put a damp washcloth inside a plastic bag and freeze it for a half hour. Put this compress on your head for icy comfort.
3. Do a Face and Scalp Massage
4. Take Some Herbs
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Menstrual Migraine Vs Menstrually Related Migraine
There are several types of migraine, and a subset of migraine is menstrual migraine, which, simply stated, is when a person has migraine attacks only around menstruation, says Dr. Hindiyeh.
There is also menstrually related migraine, which means that although you certainly get migraine around your monthly cycle, youll also get migraine attacks at other times of the month, Hindiyeh says.
Most women who have migraine attacks around the time of menstruation have menstrually related migraine, according to Hindiyeh. Their menstrual cycle will certainly be a trigger, but they also have other triggers or other times when theyll get migraine , says Hindiyeh.
Is A Persistent Headache A Symptom Of Long Covid
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms among COVID-19 long-haulers, or those with lingering issues related to the virus. New persistent daily headaches are being seen more and more in people who contract COVID-19. Individuals who already deal with regular migraines and other headache disorders also report increased frequency of headaches after a COVID diagnosis, even when they have a relatively minor case of the virus.
Whats the best defense against a lingering COVID-19 headache? Get vaccinated. Medical experts agree that its the best way to avoid the coronavirus and the chance of serious illness, hospitalization and long-haul symptoms, including headaches.
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Why Do I Have A Headache That Wont Go Away
First things first: If your headache wont go away, you need to figure out if its a sinus headache that wont go away or something else. Sinus headaches are caused by a buildup of pressure in sinus cavities that have become inflamed and are blocking regular mucus drainage.
Sinus headaches are often accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Feeling of pressure and/or throbbing around your sinuses
- Increased pain upon bending over
- Toothache in your upper teeth
Many of these symptoms, including congestion and increased pain upon bending over, can also be found in patients struggling with migraines. However, migraines are unlikely to last more than a few hours, whereas untreated sinus headaches can last for days at a time.
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