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Headaches: Frequently Asked Questions

November 12, 2012

Approximately 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, and of them, 28 million suffer from migraines.


1. Are Migraines Hereditary?

Yes, migraines have a tendency to run in families. Four out of five migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines. If one parent has a history of migraines, the child has a 50% chance of developing migraines, and if both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%.

2. Can Migraines Be Prevented?

Yes. You can reduce the frequency of your migraine attacks by identifying and then avoiding migraine triggers. You can keep track of your headache patterns and identify headache triggers by using a headache diary.

Recalling what was eaten prior to an attack may help you identify chemical triggers.

Stress management and coping techniques, along with relaxation training, can help prevent or reduce the severity of the migraine attacks.

Women who often get migraines around their menstrual period can take preventive therapy when they know their period is coming.

Migraine sufferers also seem to have fewer attacks when they eat on a regular schedule and get adequate rest.

Regular exercise — in moderation — can also help prevent migraines.

3. What Pain Medications Are Responsible for Causing Rebound Headaches?

Many commonly used pain relief medications, when taken in large enough amounts, can cause rebound headaches. Drugs once thought of as “safe” are turning up as the likeliest culprits. These include:

While small amounts of these drugs per week may be safe (and effective) — at some point, the continued medication use can lead to the development of low-grade headaches that just will not go away.

4. Can Allergies Cause Headaches?

It is a misconception that allergies cause headaches. However, allergies can cause sinus congestion, which can lead to headache pain. If you have allergies, the treatment for your allergy will not relieve your headache pain. The two conditions generally must be treated separately. See your doctor to ensure proper treatment.

5. Do Children Outgrow Headaches?

Headaches may get better as your child gets older. The headaches may disappear and then return later in life. By junior high school, many boys who have migraines outgrow them, but in girls, migraine frequency increases with age because of hormone changes. Migraines are three times more likely to occur in adolescent girls than in boys.

6. What Food Triggers Headaches?

Some of the most common food, beverages, and additives associated with headaches include:

7. Is Caffeine a Headache Treatment or a Headache Trigger?

Caffeine can be both beneficial and harmful for a headache sufferer. Caffeine is a common ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter headache drugs. Caffeine additives make pain-relievers 40% more effective in treating headaches. Caffeine also helps the body absorb headache medications more quickly, bringing faster relief.

While caffeine-containing medications can be beneficial, these medications, combined with consuming too much caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, or chocolate) from other sources, may make you more vulnerable to getting rebound headaches.

8. Can Headaches Be Prevented?

Headaches can cause untold pain and suffering. But, you don’t have to resign yourself to be a headache sufferer. There are steps you can take to prevent headaches. Here are just a few ways to keep headaches at bay.

9. What Are Abortive Medications?

Abortive medications, when used at the first sign of a migraine, can stop the process that causes the headache pain. By stopping the headache process, abortive drugs help prevent the symptoms of migraines including pain, nausea, and sound and light sensitivity. Some medications should not be used during a migraine aura; please follow the instructions of your doctor.

10. What Are Some Techniques I Can Use to Relax?

Below are a few relaxation exercises. But first, be sure that you have a quiet location that is free of distractions, a comfortable body position, and a good state of mind. Try to block out worries and distracting thoughts.

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