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What Happens To Your Brain When You Have A Headache

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What Causes Headaches?

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How Are Headaches Treated

One of the most crucial aspect of treating headaches is figuring out your triggers. Learning what those are typically by keeping a headache log can reduce the number of headaches you have.

Once you know your triggers, your healthcare provider can tailor treatment to you. For example, you may get headaches when youre tense or worried. Counseling and stress management techniques can help you handle this trigger better. By lowering your stress level, you can avoid stress-induced headaches.

Not every headache requires medication. A range of treatments is available. Depending on your headache type, frequency and cause, treatment options include:

Stress management

Stress management teaches you ways to cope with stressful situations. Relaxation techniques are helpful in managing stress. You use deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mental images and music to ease your tension.


Biofeedback teaches you to recognize when tension is building in your body. You learn how your body responds to stressful situations and ways to settle it down. During biofeedback, sensors are connected to your body. They monitor your involuntary physical responses to headaches, which include increases in:

  • Breathing rate.
  • Brain activity.


Occasional tension headaches usually respond well to over-the-counter pain relievers. But be aware that using these medications too often can lead to a long-term daily headache.

The Migraine Spreadsthen Stops

The initial migraine pain that starts with the activation of the neurons in the brainstem changes after about 1 to 2 hours. The migraine then moves to a second stage, where the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive and involved.

If you can take medication before the second stage of the migraine occurs, you are more likely to be able to stop the . Triptan medication can shut down the initial pain by narrowing the blood vessels and blocking pain transmission.

But if the pain cycle continues to the central nervous system, medication becomes less effective. If untreated, migraine can last up to 72 hours, before the nervous system response finally quiets and your brain returns to its normal, pre-activation state.

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Other Signs And Symptoms Of A Brain Tumour

Other features of headaches have been identified as “red flags,” which may suggest a brain tumour. These include:

  • a change in previous headache pattern
  • if your headaches are associated with:
  • any new muscle weakness, sensory symptoms , or visual symptoms, especially on one side of the body
  • a change in memory, personality, or thinking
  • seizures this does not have to be a full convulsive seizure, but could be a twitching of the hand, arm or leg, or an ‘absence’.

It is important to remember that all these symptoms can frequently occur in harmless headaches.

Migraines And Your Long

What is headaches and migraines

While it’s good news that you can reroute your brain, it’s also important to be aware of the other ways chronic migraine — and how you deal with it — might affect your well-being.

For some people, when mental and physical pain come together, it can become overwhelming. Brennan calls it the “pain hole.”

Don’t let migraine take over the happy and productive parts of your life. If you find that you start to feel depressed, anxious, or are losing sleep or always stressed out, tell your doctor. Working with a therapist and getting support — along with good medical care for the migraines themselves — should help keep you well.

NEJM Journal Watch: “The Postdrome Phase of Migraine.”

Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Brain Plasticity and Behaviour in the Developing Brain.”

Current Opinion in Neurology: “Migraine Changes the Brain — Neuroimaging Makes Its Mark.”

K.C. Brennan, MD, assistant professor and division chief for translational neuroscience, department of neurology, University of Utah.

Neurology: “Migraine and structural changes in the brain.”

Cedars-Sinai: “Migrainous Stroke.”

Medscape: “Understanding the Patient With Migraine: The Evolution From Episodic Headache to Chronic Neurologic Disease. A Proposed Classification of Patients With Headache.”

Migraine Research Foundation: “Migraine Facts.”

National Headache Foundation: “Responsible Use of Opioids.”

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I Think I Have A Brain Tumour What Should I Do

Brain tumours are rare, however, if you’re worried, if a symptom persists or if you have more than one of these symptoms then you may want to speak to a healthcare profession.

Talk to your GP

GP appointments are usually quite short, find out how to best prepare for your appointment with our guide to talking to your doctor.

Get an eye test

If your symptoms are limited to changes in vision and/or headaches, get your eyes tested by an optician before seeing your GP.

Should I go to A& E?

  • The headache is accompanied by a fever or stiff neck.
  • The headache is the highest degree of pain on the pain scale.

This does not mean it is a brain tumour, but it could be another serious complaint that needs immediate treatment.

For signs and symptoms to be aware of in children of different ages, including persistent or recurring headaches, visit our HeadSmart website.

Should I speak to a doctor during the coronavirus pandemic?

We understand you may feel worried about seeking help from your GP during the coronavirus pandemic but please don’t delay speaking to a healthcare professional.

The NHS and your GP are still here for you and have made changes that make it easier to safely speak to a healthcare professional and get medical help if you need it.

It’s more important than ever for you to prepare for your appointments by understanding what might happen during the appointment and what questions you want to ask.

What Happens To The Brain When You Get A Headache

When you have a headache, you may wonder what is going on inside your brain. Brain tissue itself cannot feel pain. Instead, your brain processes pain sensations that it receives from the rest of the body 1. Depending on the type of headache you have, pain signals may come from nerves, blood vessels or membranes that surround the brain, or from muscles of the head and neck 1. Some headaches are also associated with electrical changes in brain activity.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

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What Happens To Your Body When You Have A Headache

Women are considered the main sufferers of nogging throbbers. Learn what’s behind the painand how to make it stop.

TREAT YOURSELFThe best way to nix a headache: Prevent it from happening. Sticking to a daily routine and ID’ing your particular triggers are key. If you slip up, you may be able to keep a splitter from snowballing by drinking four eight-ounce glasses of H2O or doing some deep breathing for several minutes.

Already in pain? Most docs do not recommend meds for tension headaches. Research shows distraction could work much better. If your ache is more intense, pop some OTC ibuprofen and ask your doc about other treatments.

Despite being so common, headaches remain somewhat of a medical mystery. Many theories have been debunked new ideas center around brain chemistry gone wild.

If the hurt is mild to moderate on both sides of your head, you likely have a tension headache. If it’s searing and on one side, you may have a more intense kind that could hit your. . .

BrainAn area of the brain stem called the “migraine generator” switches on the nerve responsible for face sensation. Cue: extra-tender skin.

Your pain center is now online. Though it could feel as if your brain is being stabbed with an ice pick, the organ can’t actually feel pain. It’s your meninges, a thin sheath around your brain, that’s on fire.

On the flip side, anything already in your tract might morph into diarrhea.

Chemicals Cause Additional Symptoms

What Happens In Your Body During Migraine | WebMD

Your brain also responds to the brainstem activation by releasing chemicals called neuropeptides, including serotonin, noradrenalin, prostaglandins and others. Once released, they travel to the outer layer of your brainthe meningeswhich results in inflammation and swelling of blood vessels, causing an increase in blood flow around the brain.

This is likely the cause of the throbbing, pulsing pain most people experience during . While the pain may be originating from the surface of your brain, you may feel it in your eyes, temple area, neck, face or sinuses. These neurochemicals also can transmit signals to the part of the brain that controls appetite, and .

Another phenomenon that occurs as a result of this inflammation and chemical interplay is skin super-sensitivity. About 80% of migraine sufferers experience whats called cutaneous allodynia that causes things like earrings, necklaces, neckties and eyeglasses to become painful. Some people say even their hair hurts this chemical reaction is why.

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When To See Your Doctor

Usually, headaches arent serious and you can often treat them yourself. But sometimes, they can signal a more serious problem.

  • The pain feels like the worst headache of your life.
  • Youve had a change in the pattern of your headaches.
  • Headaches wake you up at night.
  • The headache started after a blow to the head.

You should also see your doctor if youre experiencing any of these symptoms alongside your headache:

  • confusion

You can book a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.

A Closer Look At Pain

Pain is the brains way of telling you that things are bad for you. For example, a hot stove or a slammed door can damage your skin and muscle. If you, say, burn your finger or slam a door on it, information about the damage is sent to your brain.

When it arrives there you will, unfortunately, experience it as pain.

As most of us know, pain feels terrible, but it is actually very useful. It is the brains way of convincing you not to do things that can hurt you.

Come on, mate, you whisper, rubbing your temples, get to the headaches already.

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Picturing A Migraine Attack

The brain works through many extremely complicated biochemical and electrical mechanisms, many of which are not even completely understood by science so it is no surprise that a description of what happens in the brain during a migraine attack is complicated! This article will try to make the process as clear as understandable as possible, even if you do not know a lot about cells and chemistry.

To start off, it can be helpful to use a mental picture that illustrates what is going on when migraine attacks are triggered: imagine a large troupe of gymnasts doing a dance routine to music, on a slick hardwood floor. The dancers are listening to music for their cues of when to do which dance move.

This wave of falling dancers is of course a bit silly, but the process has some similarity to the kind of chain reaction that takes place in the brain when a migraine attack is triggered, as we will see when we now dive into the actual biology of a migraine attack.

When To Contact A Medical Professional

When a headache occurs, what kind of things happen in our ...

Some headaches may be a sign of a more serious illness. Seek medical help right away for any of the following:

  • This is the first headache you have ever had in your life and it interferes with your daily activities.
  • Your headache comes on suddenly and is explosive or violent. This kind of headache needs medical attention right away. It may be due to a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Your headache is “the worst ever,” even if you regularly get headaches.
  • You also have slurred speech, a change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss with your headache.
  • Your headache gets worse over 24 hours.
  • You also have a fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting with your headache.
  • Your headache occurs with a head injury.
  • Your headache is severe and just in one eye, with redness in that eye.
  • You just started getting headaches, especially if you are older than 50.
  • Your headaches are associated with vision problems, pain while chewing, or weight loss.
  • You have a history of cancer or immune system problem and develop a new headache.

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You Feel More Down Than Usual

When your brain is inflamed you may also experience depression. Again, this type of inflammation is usually lifestyle-related. As Health Coach and a Nutritional Therapist, Christina Tsiripidou tells Bustle, eating meals that are high in toxic protein or proteins that are genetically modified, and low in vegetables and healthy fats, can contribute to this. Not getting enough sleep and poor stress management skills can also have a way of making this worse.

Also Known As An Ice Cream Headache Doctors Say The Condition Is Harmless But It Does Hurt

Who hasnt had a delicious milkshake, Popsicle or ice cream cone interrupted by the summertime curse known as a brain freeze? The pain starts on the roof of your mouth and within an instant feels like lightning bolts bouncing inside your skull. Then poof! A few seconds later, the discomfort disappears.

Just because the pain caused by a brain freeze, or ice cream headache, is fleeting doesnt mean its any less real. In fact, doctors have an official name for the unpleasant condition sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia but good luck pronouncing it .

So, whats going on inside your head during a brain freeze?

You can think of it almost like a cramp, says Wojtek Mydlarz, director of head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine. When you move too quickly, you might get a little strain or sharp pain.

Similarly, when we eat too much ice cream too fast, it surprises your body.

Youre shocking your system. Youre shocking your throat, your palate and your tongue from the cold, especially when its hot outside, says Mydlarz.

In response to the coldness, blood vessels in the roof of your mouth tighten while something known as the trigeminal nerve sends a message to your brain saying that the body needs to turn up the thermostat. The brain responds by sending warm blood to your mouth, loosening the blood vessels there.

When your body recovers from the cold exposure and tightening of blood vessels, thats when you get that very sharp headache, says Mydlarz.

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It Comes On Suddenly And Severely

A brain aneurysm occurs when weak blood vessels in the brain start expanding or ballooning out. Usually they dont cause symptoms, although if they get very big, they can cause headaches. But a ruptured aneurysm, which occurs when the ballooned vessel pops and leaks blood around the brain, can cause a massive, sudden headache.

The classic presentation is the worst headache of your life, says Jonathan J. Russin, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a neurosurgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. They call it a thunder clap headache.

It may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weakness or drowsiness. If you experience a major headache like this, call 911 immediately.

Discover The Science Behind Your Head Pain

Why Do We Get Headaches?

Ever wonder whats happening inside your body to cause migraine pain and discomfort? While researchers still dont know exactly what causes a migraine, you can learn the phases of what happens in your bodyand how you can fight back. The video below provides a visual analysis of how a migraine impacts your brain and your body before, during, and after an attack.

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A Note From Cleveland Clinic

The good news for headache sufferers is that you can choose from many kinds of treatment. If your first treatment plan doesnt work, dont give up. Your healthcare provider can recommend other treatments or strategies to find the right fix for you.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/03/2020.


When Should I Call The Doctor

If you think your headaches may be migraines, you’ll want to see a doctor to treat them and learn ways to try to avoid getting the headaches in the first place. Sometimes relaxation exercises or changes in diet or sleeping habits are all that’s needed. But if needed, a doctor also can prescribe medicine to help control the headaches.

You’ll also want to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms as well as a headache:

  • changes in vision, such as blurriness or seeing spots
  • tingling sensations
  • skin rash
  • weakness, dizziness, or difficulty walking or standing
  • neck pain or stiffness
  • fever

If you do see a doctor for headaches, he or she will probably want to do an exam and get your to help figure out what might be causing them.

The doctor may ask you:

  • how severe and frequent your headaches are
  • when they happen
  • about any medicine you take
  • about any allergies you have
  • if you’re feeling stressed
  • about your diet, habits, sleeping patterns, and what seems to help or worsen the headaches

The doctor may also do blood tests or imaging tests, such as a CAT scan or MRI of the brain, to rule out medical problems.

Sometimes doctors will refer people with headaches they think might be migraines or a symptom of a more serious problem to a specialist like a , a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system.

It’s very rare that headaches are a sign of something serious. But see a doctor if you get headaches a lot or have a headache that:

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