Continuous pain in the head can be caused by one of two types of disorders. The first type is called headache, while the other is known as migraine in medical terminology. Both of these types of pain are caused by the excessive pressure occurring on the nerve endings. The difference between these two types is formed by different factors that cause the pressing on the nerve endings. The tightening of muscles in the head and neck due to stress or other reasons brings pressure on the sensory nerves, and then these nerves would identify this sensation as a headache. The headache that we sometimes feel can be compared to pressurized water that has remained in the elastic tube after the tap is turned off; the water will continue to trickle out as the tap exerts pressure on the water to stop flowing. Similarly, the nerve endings will also keep on sending a trickle of signals to the brain that it is experiencing an unpleasant sensation. Therefore, as long as the affected nerves remain pressed, the headache that a person is experiencing will not stop.
During a migraine, a somewhat different process takes place in the brain. It is not the muscles that are putting the pressure on the nerves in the migraine, but it is the blood vessels that deliver sufficient supply blood to the brain that start contracting and expanding. Whenever the blood vessels expand, they exert pressure on the nearby nerve endings, and then the nerves would begin sending throbbing and painful sensation to the brain.
What Causes the Blood Vessels to Expand?
Now that we know the differences and similarities between a headache and a migraine, let us now learn more about the scientific explanation behind expansion and contraction of the blood vessels in the brain and see why migraine should be classified as another type of head pain.
According to research, the occasional decrease of a chemical called serotonin in our body causes contraction of blood vessels. If the blood vessels are pressed, it will be unable to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the brain, which generally causes the pain during a migraine. The brain, which normally weighs about 1,300 grams and contains approximately 15 billion nerve cells or neurons, requires at least 0.85 liters fresh blood to flow through it since it consumes the largest amount of oxygen among all the organs of our body.
Whenever there is a shortage in blood supply that gets delivered to the brain, the neurons will start to get suffocated. At this moment, the brain will send out repeated signals to the blood vessels, usually through the use of neurons found in the nervous system, to request them to expand so that they can give more blood. If the blood vessels expand in response to the signals from the brain, the nerve endings that identify sensations in our body will get pressed, and the brain will experience unpleasant sensations or pain.
Medication for Headache and Migraine
A doctor would often prescribe medication to patients who have frequent migraines and headaches. Some of the most common medications prescribed for these disorders are propranolol, Divalproex, and topiramate. The said medications are researched to be the most effective out of all. However, there also exists a disorder called medication overuse headache, which is caused by taking too many analgesics to treat headaches. As such, it is best to consume only the right amount of medication so that another headache won’t occur.
If a migraine or headache is still occurring, although not on a consistent basis, alternative therapies are the most useful to alleviate the pain associated with the said illnesses. A good head massage is said to be as effective as prescribed medications, although further study is needed to prove this statement to be a fact. Chiropractic is also regarded as an effective alternative medicine to combat headaches, as it aims to correct any misalignments in the muscles and in the bones, which could sometimes cause nerves and blood vessels to become pressed.
Before seeking medication or alternative therapy for the constant unpleasant and throbbing pain on your head, make sure that you have consulted a doctor first so that you will have a better understanding of the pain you are dealing with.
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