Women will often joke that the main cause of their headaches is the men in their lives, but in reality, the cause is more likely to be something else. Debbie had a chat with Dr Peter Selvaratnam who believes the first step to relieving a headache is finding out the root cause.
Dr Peter Selvaratnam believes that maintaining good health requires a multidisciplinary approach. Co-author of Headache, Orofacial Pain and Bruxism, which deals with the diagnosis and multidisciplinary approaches to management of such conditions, is himself a practicing Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist. “Headaches and migraines can be the result of stress, depression, infection, injury, tiredness, high blood pressure, optical issues or even food intolerances and may take more than one specialist to diagnose and treat. Any more than a couple of areas of pain should be checked by a whole team”, say Dr Selvaratnam.
Both men and women suffer headaches, yet women are more likely to be prone to recurring pain. This can range from a dull ache to a full on migraine. Some of the triggers for headaches are:
- lack of sleep
- high blood pressure
- food intolerance,
however, the difference in the emotional make-up of men and women and the way each sex deals with issues, could shed some light on why women seem to suffer more from headaches.
Firstly, women want to talk about issues, while in the main, men are happy to sweep things under the carpet. Being constantly rebuffed when trying to communicate can lead to women bottling up emotions and issues which can lead to stress – a common cause of headache.
Secondly, like it or not, women are more likely than men to nag. Now some of you may think that this means the male in relationship is more prone to headaches. If women feel they are not being listened to and are not being given the proper support around the home, or with household issues, the they will feel they have to do it all themselves, leading to frustration and tiredness – also likely to cause headaches.
Lastly, think of a cobweb – this is one of the best ways to describe what’s going on in a woman’s brain. Women tend to over analyse things, whether it’s the tone in her partner’s voice when he says goodbye, or how she was greeted when she last met with her friends. Not being able to find some quiet mental time can lead to over stimulation – and you guessed it – a headache.
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Of course, there are physical reasons which can lead to both men and women suffering from headaches. Infections such as root canal issues and the flu as well as viral and bacterial meningitis can result in debilitating headaches.
While women may report to suffering more headaches during the menopause, there is no medical correlation between the two. This could be attributed to women over 50 finding themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’. Not only are they responsible for decisions in their own household, they are often looking after older parents and trying to help their children set out on their own. A change in blood circulation (which can also affects men over 50), can also be a contributing factor.
Headaches can also be the result of a fall. Head injuries, especially amongst the elderly, can often go undiagnosed if there is no external mark as indication. Dr Selvaratnam suggests regular, gentle activity, which keeps the mind and body responsive as being one of the best ways to combat falls. Having witnessed his father suffering a head injury only served to reiterate that maintaining a good balance was vital. “Many community health centres offer balance programs – often free of charge – for older adults. Not only is this a good way to stay active, but it also offers a social outlet for those who may be lonely”, says Dr Selvaratnam.
Migraines are more than just more painful headaches and many people claim to have a migraine when they do not. There is a set criterion to define a migraine and if you suspect that the pain you are suffering is more than a headache, then one of the many headache centres around Australia can offer assistance and support. Migraines should not be brushed off lightly – just ask the 11 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women who suffer migraines. Triggers for migraines include:
- work stress
- day-to-day factors
Associated symptoms include nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, numbness and affected vision. Although there is no cure for migraines, treatment does include trying to eradicate the trigger.