June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. It’s a chance for you to shine a light on a problem that affects millions of people—maybe even you. But did you know your headache location may be providing you vital information you can share with your doctor?
According to the Migraine Research Foundation there are more than 39 million migraine sufferers in the United States alone. In fact, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. It affects men, women and even children.
The good news is, knowing the type of headache you have and its triggers are good ways of keeping them under control. But headache location is typically a good place to start. So, let’s look at some headache locations and find out what they could be telling you.
If Your Headache Location is Your Forehead
When we think headache location, or headaches in general, the forehead is probably the first place that comes to mind. Although a common headache location, if your headaches are typically centered here, chances are it’s a tension headache.
A tension headache is the most common type of headache. Some people say that a tension headache feels like a tight band around their forehead. They can be brought on by stress, poor posture or even a lack of sleep.
If you think you’re suffering from tension headaches your best defenses include:
- Stress reduction techniques (like yoga or meditation)
- Ice or heat on sore muscles
- Better posture
There are some pain relievers that may also help, but talk to your doctor about which medications are best for you.
If your Headache Location is Behind Your Nose & Eyes
If your headaches are located behind your nose and eyes, you’re most likely dealing with sinus headaches. That’s because the cavities around your nasal passages are inflamed. Your nasal passages are basically located just above your eyebrows and in your cheeks, just below your eyes.
Sinus headaches are often triggered by a cold or allergies. Symptoms include:
- Facial pain
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
You’ll find relief by taking a pain medication or nasal decongestant. You can even try a saline rinse, but talk to your doctor to pinpoint the proper treatment.
If Your Headaches Dominate One Side
This is the headache location millions of people deal with on a regular basis. Migraines are typically limited to a particular area of your head.
Migraines are caused by a mechanism in the brain that releases pain-producing inflammatory substances around nerves and blood vessels in your head. Symptoms include:
- Recurrent painful throbbing
- Light Sensitivity
Relief can come from preventative and pain-relieving medicines. They include an antibody therapy that shows a lot of promise.
If Your Headache Location is in Your Jaw
Your Temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, can cause jaw pain that may be mistaken for recurring tension headaches. The pain radiates from your temples, just in front of your ears.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates more than 10 million Americans suffer from this syndrome, also known as Temporomandibular joint Disorder, or TMD. But scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes it.
You can find relief from TMJ and the headaches it causes by using things like:
- Ice packs
- Warm compress
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Relaxation techniques
You can also switch your diet. Eating softer, chewier foods may help. Hard, crunchy foods may trigger the pain.
If Your Headache Starts in Your Neck
Headache locations don’t always originate in your head. Many people deal with headaches that resonate from their neck. The pain is usually felt on top of your head or in the back of your head.
Stress and even some foods can cause this type of headache, so can staring at your computer all day. If your neck joint gets stiff it will cause the pain. You can use a heating pad or a hot water bottle for relief. An ice pack may help, too.
You see, knowing your headache location can help you pinpoint what type of headache you have. You can show your support for sufferers during National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month by wearing purple. The National Headache Foundation also has a printable sign you can post. One of the goals is to encourage those with headache or migraine to see a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you’re a headache sufferer, but aren’t sure where to turn, our guide “Choosing a Primary Care Physician” can help. In it you’ll learn which primary care physician is right for you, and when (or if) your headaches should prompt a visit to the emergency department.