Understanding what causes debilitating headaches

Understanding what causes debilitating headaches

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by KELLIE PATTERSON / NewsChannel 36 Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on November 4, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 4 at 4:50 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- They're painful and frustrating. In some cases they are debilitating.

"My headaches are controlling my life," says Kristin Flynn.

So Flynn is visiting a Neurologist to see what can be done.

Her headaches are so bad she had to wear sunglasses for our interview.

"I'm really light sensitive and it feels like its burning my eyes and just kind of intensifies the pressure that goes on inside my head," she said.

Headaches come in all shapes and sizes, and there are a lot of things that can trigger one. Things like stress, lack of sleep, caffeine, too much alcohol, even exercise can lead to a headache.

Doctor Joseph Chipman of Presbyterian Neurology Center says the most common is the tension-type headache.

"It's the headache where they sometimes get pain behind the eye or a band around their head," says Dr. Chipman.

Then there's the dreaded migraine.

"It can be on one side of the head, it can be associated with nausea, dizziness, visual changes, vomiting, and sometimes they can be extremely debilitating."

There's also something called a "cluster headache."

"This kind of headache occurs in short bursts. So basically you can have 15 minute headaches and they can wake you up in the middle of the night."

In some cases, medication may be required to treat your headache but
Dr. Chipman says simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference no matter what type you have.

"What I tell my patients is to really take the time to relax and try to unwind after a really stressful work day or just taking the time to get regular massages. Maybe doing some type of meditation, that sometimes helps."

For Flynn, it was time to see a doctor, and here's when you probably should too.

"If you start to have a headache that is constant dull type headache and it’s not going away, if there is weakness on one side, numbness, and tingling.”

Flynn hopes this visit to the doctor will help her get her life back.

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