Chronic headaches are defined as occurring more than 15 days a month. Up to 4% of adults worldwide have this many headaches a month. Studies show no correlation between low back pain and a specific type of headache. Both primary and secondary headaches plague the adult population ranging from tension-type headaches (TTH) to migraines. Primary headaches are independent of health conditions or sickness, while secondary headaches are caused by various conditions such as stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol, fatigue, injury or infection. Below are several common types of headaches:
A tension-type headache (TTH) is typically a dull pain or continuous pressure occurring bilaterally or across the forehead. These headaches are often associated with a tightness of the scalp or neck in response to stress or depression. The best method of treatment for a TTH is rest and relaxation. Mild, over-the-counter painkillers may also be used in moderation.
A post-traumatic headache is often localized to an area inflicted with injury. It can feel like a TTH or a migraine, depending on the severity of the trauma. They may occur daily following an injury and are not quickly treatable. However, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs may be used.
Sinus headaches are typically caused by viral infections producing pain in the face, sinuses, eyes, ears or forehead. Symptoms can include congestion, itchy, runny nose, fever or facial swelling.
A migraine is a throbbing pain in the face or neck, concentrated in one area. Other symptoms may include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting and distorted vision. Pain may last anywhere from several hours to several days.
Studies have shown that individuals with headaches are significantly more likely to suffer from low back pain than those without headaches. Individuals are twice as likely to have both headaches and back pain simultaneously. Doctors and researchers speculate a potential biological underpinning between the two. While there is no specific correlation to the type of headache associated with chronic back pain, chronic headaches, whether primary or secondary, are associated with low back pain.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Low back pain affects 80% of adults at least once in their lifetime, while 20% of these individuals develop chronic low back pain.
Several factors put a person at higher risk for low back and headache pain. Females are more susceptible to chronic headaches and therefore are at a higher risk of experiencing the two pains side by side. Additional factors include smoking, obesity and low level of education. While these factors are not necessary for chronic headache and low back pain, they are strongly associated with the two.
While experts are unsure why the two co-occur, they know that a strong correlation exists. Preventative measures and treatments may help to alleviate some of the pain. Recommended treatment for headaches and back pain include:
- A hot or cold compress on the head, neck, or back
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs
- Maintain good posture
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Manage high blood pressure
- Avoid infections and wash your hands
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