What Is Headache?
One of the Most Common Symptoms Experienced by Humans.
Headache is one of the commonest symptoms experienced by humans. In fact, it is quite unusual not to have at least an occasional headache. Why some people never experience headache is not known.
It is probably linked with their inheritance of the chemical transmitters that pass messages in the brain from one nerve cell to another. The brain has a control mechanism for pain impulses and the transmitter substances involved in this also play a part in the emotions, As a general rule, happy people have fewer headaches than sad people but that is not the whole answer (Lance).
Headaches are usually harmless but can create concern about their origin. Very occasionally headaches are a pointer to a serious disease such as brain tumour or stroke. This is why many people seek advice from their doctors and, in some cases, are referred to specialist neurologists. Normally the severity of the headache bears no relation to the gravity of the diagnosis (Spira).
A great deal of research has been directed at determining the mechanisms responsible for the production of the pain of headache. While the brain is itself insensitive to pain, its covering membranes and its larger blood vessels are richly supplied by nerve fibres capable of transmitting the experience of pain. Most of the other structures within the head and upper neck, e.g., eyes, ears, nasal sinuses, skin, muscle, joints and arteries are also exquisitively pain sensitive (Spira).
This means that disorders in any of these structures may be experienced as a form of headache. The pain is produced through irritation of these structures via mechanical, chemical or inflammatory mechanisms and pain sensitive nerve fibres send a ‘pain’ message back to the brain. The brain can’t always tell where the pain message originated which is why it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a headache (Spira).
As there are so many types of headache and as headache affects each person differently, it is important that you consult your doctor.
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”