Towards a Better Life
Headache is a very individual condition. It is not life threatening but it can profoundly affect quality of life. Headache sufferers are uniquely placed in that they can determine factors common to their own condition, learn more about their own condition and headache in general, and develop a plan to manage their headaches, to take charge of their headaches.
Headache research is seriously underfunded because it is mainly suffered in silence. Headache Australia is the voice and for it to be heard we need many many more members to start from a self-help basis to making the voice loud enough to gain the attention of corporations and governments.
To assist you to take charge of your headache, consider the following:
1. Take Responsibility for your Headache
Doctors, family, friends, colleagues and Headache Australia provide support but only you really know your headache and can take the action that leads to headache management. Periods between headaches represent an opportunity to learn more and develop a headache plan that could prevent, curtail or lessen the next headache.
2. Keep a Headache Diary
Keeping a Headache Diary in which you record what you do/eat/drink, your hormonal cycle, medications you are taking, and any changes in your environment over a period of time, will help you identify any patterns that may lead to your headache and will help your doctor diagnose your headache.
3. Identify and Avoid Precipitating Factors
Precipitating factors (triggers) are anything that may precipitate or bring on a headache in a person prone to that factor. Precipitating factors include hormonal changes in women, stress especially stress relief, dietary factors, alcohol, environmental factors, too much or too little sleep, physical exertion, bright lights and poor work conditions. Precipitating factors you have identified can, where possible, be excluded from your life and hopefully this may lead to weaker, less frequent or even an absence of headaches.
4. Work with your Doctor
It is important that you visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis of your headache and to rule out any injury that may be the cause of your headache. Make the appointment to specifically discuss your headache rather than adding it on to the end of another appointment. Completing the Helping Your Doctor Treat Your Headache Questionnaire will assist the doctor to diagnose your headache and plan your treatment. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist neurologist.
5. Review your Lifestyle
It is quite possible that your life style, both at home and in the workplace, could provoke your headache. Review your lifestyle determining your stress factors (work, family, financial, health, pace of life), diet, posture, environment, medical support and routines.
6. Learn More About Headache
Headache Australia is a division of the Brain Foundation that was established in 1971 by neurologists and neurosurgeons to reduce the incidence and impact of neurological disorders, the most prevalent being headache, through the provision of support, community education and research. Through Headache Australia you can access information about many aspects of headache, about support services and research developments.
7. Regularly Update Your Headache Management Plan in Partnership With Your Doctor
This will involve
8. Adopt Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes are difficult to make because they involve change, sometimes major, because they may involve other people, and because they take time and effort. These changes predominantly involve adopting a healthy lifestyle and stress management.
- A Healthy Lifestyle may help reduce or eliminate headaches or will at least improve your overall health and involves eating healthily and regularly, drinking less caffeine and alcohol and plenty of water, exercising regularly, avoiding fatigue and having plenty of rest, having sufficient regular sleep, good posture and ensuring that work and living areas are well ventilated and well lit.
Stress management involves learning to be able to control stress and relax. Everyone has periods of stress. Stress has benefits in that it can result in us pushing ourselves and getting things done. This can precipitate a headache. Simply taking some deep breaths and maybe tensing then relaxing your muscles can relieve occasional mild stress. Regular stress may require learning to say “no”, not taking too much on. Becoming fit, eating regularly, and proper sleep can help combat stress. Learn better organizing skills, not setting standards that are too high and deal with problems as they arise, can all help. As can, adopting stress management techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, relaxation therapy and yoga.
9. Plan Ahead
It is highly likely that any type of headache will impact on your life and lifestyle. The impact could range from not being able to spend a weekend with your children, falling behind at work as you take time off, or perhaps even falling ill as a result of not wanting to eat or leave the house. Friday night at the pub can take on a whole new meaning as you discover that it’s more than a hangover when it lasts till Monday. Examining your lifestyle and planning ahead may reduce the impact of your headaches. Be prepared by:
- Looking out for warning signs of a headache
10. Help Yourself Through a Headache
If you recognize the signals of an impending headache don’t just ignore them. Stop what you are doing and relax your body, try to ease tension from your head and neck by stretching. Now may be the time to take your prescription medication or some over-the-counter medication. All headache sufferers have different ways of dealing with an attack. There is no scientific data to support any of these methods but some we have heard of working include:
11. Join our Headache Register
Click here to find out more, or complete the form to the right to join our Australia wide Headache Register.
Migraine and Other Headaches 2000 Professor James Lance
Prepared by Louise Alexander, PhC, Grad Dip Comm Mngt, Former National Director of the Brain Foundation. Reviewed by Professor James Lance, AO, CBE, MD, Hon DSc, FRCP, FRACP, FAA, Consulting Neurologist, and author, “Migraine and Other Headaches”