Sorry honey, I’ve got a headache

The most common types of headaches in women are migraines and tension headaches. They are often triggered by emotional or physical stress. The best way to treat them is simple painkillers and rest.  However, there are also some specialised medications available for migraines.

Is it a migraine?

Is it a tension headache?

Throbbing pain on one side of the head with severe nausea and vomiting

They develop slowly and are over both sides of the head

Visual changes such as flickering lights, lines or partial loss of vision often occurs before the migraine

Many people describe a band behind the eyes and across the forehead but they can be at the front or at the back of the head

In some cases, numbness or weakness on one side of the body

Nausea is common but rarely vomiting

Usually last less than a day

Tend to last for days

May occur during a period due to hormonal changes

Often the headache is present on waking and decreases a little with painkillers but returns

Certain foods such as chocolate, cheese and red wine can trigger migraines

They can be as severe as migraines

Tend to be inherited so often one parent also suffers from migraines


Don’t just assume it is a tension headache or migraine.

There are lots of uncommon causes for headache, some of which can be serious.  It is best to discuss your particular type of headache with your health practitioner. Read through the symptoms of tension headache and migraine and see if they seem to be typical for your type of headache. Keep a diary and note what triggers the headaches.

What do I do about the headaches?

Having the type of headache diagnosed by a GP is very important. Your GP may refer you to a neurologist if the diagnosis is unclear. Once the uncommon causes are ruled out, then the headache can be treated.  Reducing stress in your life may reduce your headaches.

Once a headache starts, the best treatment is to rest in a dark room. Take some paracetamol and/or ibuprofen. If this is not enough, try a medication that contains codeine. Stronger painkillers are available from your GP but they are often addictive and have side effects. Using strong painkillers can frequently worsen headaches.

Specific medication for migraines is available from your GP. Anti-nausea tablets are also important for migraine sufferers. If migraines are frequent your GP may prescribe tablets that are taken every day to prevent migraines.

You can find out more by visiting the websites below:

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health or call toll free 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)