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Sep 25, 2008

Healthy Living: what causes headaches?

Everyone suffers from headaches at some point in time and while there are many types, at least one hundred and fifty of them, our medical professional will tell you why yoh head di hat yoh.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
When we talk about pain, it’s easy to think automatically about the worse case scenarios: the accidents, the emergencies, broken bones, life threatening situations. But there’s one pain that many of us so frequently encounter. It seems easy enough to diagnose and for most of us easy to remedy. Pull out the aspirin or ibuprofen and wait it out. But the problem isn’t that simple for all of us. Sometimes dealing with a headache can be – well, a headache.

To get the Belizean perspective, we took to the streets to find out how Belizeans are dealing with this common ache.

Person #1
“I just lie down and try and sleep”

Person #2
“Just relax myself, maybe tek some pills.”

Person #3
“I just concentrate, just tek me mind off of everything and just relax.”

Person #4
“I tek lime and cut it inna half and suck di juice.”

Person #5
“Sometime I go to the shop and tek aspirin and go home, take a nap.”

Pills, sleep, lime, relaxing, even prayers. The effectiveness of these remedies may be questionable to most but to remedy your headache you must first understand the basics. First of all, a headache is not only confined to your head.

Dr. Joel Cervantes, Neurosurgeon/ Spine Surgeon
“It is a very uncomfortable situation where as human beings we would refer to pain, usually very important pain to what is the structure of your head or most times including the face and in some cases some people would even refer it to the upper part of the neck region both to the front and to the back.”

Dr. Joel Cervantes is one of the few practicing neurosurgeons in Belize. He has been practicing in Belize for the past three years. I sat down with him to find out a bit more about headaches.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“We have different type of headaches. Tension type headache is perhaps one of the most common although most people will talk about migraines. In general our public, when they come to the office, most times are going to self diagnose that they have a migraine.”

This is precisely why understanding the different types of headaches is important. There are several types of headaches. In fact, over a hundred and fifty diagnostic headache categories have been established. The more common types are the tension headaches, cluster headaches, rebound headache and of course migraines.

Tension headaches are the more common type of headache. Persons experience a mild to moderate pain that’s comes and goes over a prolonged period of time. Although you may still be able to work with a tension headache, you may experience a band-like pressure in the front and back of the head.

Cluster headaches are less common. It is a severe type of headache that occurs over a period of one to eight weeks with one to three attacks per day. Sufferers experience a stabbing headache, more vividly described as tearing the tissue apart in the head and a stabbing pain. It can be accompanied by involuntary crying or involuntary release of mucus through the nasal passage. The headaches may disappear for months or years, only to recur.

Rebound headaches are a result of Over-use of medications. That’s right taking too much medication for your headache can cause a “rebound” into another headache. This is particularly true if your medication contains caffeine.

And the big whammy when it comes to headaches is the migraines. This is an immobilizing experience due to the extreme sensitivity to light and noise. The exact cause of migraines is unknown but it is due to the contracting and release of blood vessels within the brain. Researchers have linked the occurrence to migraines to genetics.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“There is a very important characteristic between a tension type headache and a migraine. When you have a migraine headache, the person cannot do any physical exertion. That person usually has to lie down and keep away from noise, keep away from light, has to be as quiet as possible. With tension headaches, these headaches can be very bothersome, but most individuals with tension type headaches can continue their professional activities or daily activities. It is not as limiting as a migraine would be.”

Taking into consideration the different types of headaches one may encounter, we posed the question to Dr. Cervantes about the effectiveness of common remedies.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“Most times these medications could work. The problem is that people don’t know they’re appropriate dosage because of body weight and secondly, they don’t know how frequently they are supposed to take a medication. Sometimes too there are prone to doing some things that may initially raise a doctor’s eyebrow; like some people would perhaps tie their head with a cold or warm stimulus like cold water, warm water tying their head. Sometimes these might work depending on the type of headache the person would have and the real cause behind the headache. You also find a lot of people that they self-diagnose and tend to over medicate themselves or even if they had been to a doctor or a colleague who might be a general practitioner or a family physician, most times they would consult but would not do what the doctor is recommending.”

One of the reasons people seem to self diagnose and self medicate is because of lack of understanding of the real cause of their pain. But as we found out, most weren’t too far off from the facts.

Person #5
“Well if da no one thing da di next. Everything put inna di pot, bubble up and stew come out to di same thing; headache.”

Person #2
“Problem problems. Yoh got di sun, maybe you got frustration.”

Person #4
“Sometimes da stress, heat, so headache could come anytime.”

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“The type of people who come and see you as a professional, the majority are women, mostly younger women at most middle aged women and there’s a very interesting characteristic about their types of headache–I’m going to use the word headache—that they are complaining about. Many times it is associated to problems of daily living which, although I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist which may be hand–in–hand with problems like stress, anxiety, worries as we say in Belize. Maybe some of these people are depressed, have a very long term sadness and a lot has to do–I’m saying that the majority are women but I’m not saying that men are not included—has to do with problems of daily living; financial problem, problems at work, problems at home, problems with the spouse and funny enough people come in self classifying that they are having a migraine and what they have is most times a tension headache with anxiety and or depression and they most times don’t take well to you trying to point out to them that the basis or problem is not the headache it is something form the daily living activities. Men don’t tend to come, I guess they’re a bit embarrassed or a bit afraid to accept that problems from daily living can cause them a headache or can be related to the everyday living problems.”

Marleni Cuellar
“Always remember that a headache is merely a symptom; sometimes it’s a symptom for something much more serious.”

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“There is one specific sign about headache. If anybody is suffering a headache that is a sudden that is the most severe headache they have ever had in their life, they’ve never had this headache before, that doesn’t allow them to do anything that doubles them up, they can’t work. It happens immediately and that person is like cannot do anything else is inactive at that moment and is looking like wanting to vomit, having nausea, needing to lie down and have quiet that is a neurological emergency where that person has to reach a hospital and to be seen either by the neurologist or a neurosurgeon.”

And for those who like to indulge on the weekends, we asked Dr. Cervantes about one more common headache.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“A hangover headache, most times, is because where we have an excess of not only bleaching and drinking as such, we have dehydrated our body. The body is dry. We’re lacking a certain amount of liquids in the body and salts which are natural to the body. We’re going to have these tremendous types of headaches because this is going to cause a lot of shifts in the inner working of the body and it’s going to cause a tremendous type of headache. The remedy as such is rehydrating ourselves.”

Let’s not forget that the headaches are a manifestation of another base problem. Dr. Cervantes told us that ninety-five percent of cases that he sees are headaches that are an outcome of some other based problem and not a neurological problem. Drinking, smoking, excessive time in front of the computer, TV and videogames, even food may be cause for your headache. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping a good diet and not doing things in excess that may harm your body are key ways to ward off headaches.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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