coffee-631767_640 Caffeine can be a headache trigger or headache inhibitor. Caffeine can be found in beverages, chocolate and even in some popular over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers. Before a headache or migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge. Because it contains “vasoconstrictive” properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, caffeine can aid in head pain relief. When caffeine is added to the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin, the pain relieving effect is increased by 40%.

By Suzanne E. Simons Executive Director of the National Headache Foundation In a recent online survey, we queried Web site visitors regarding how the economic downturn is affecting them and how they manage their headaches. Not surprisingly, the study reveals headache sufferers make significant changes in headache treatment and prevention methods during a financial crisis. The survey revealed that 82% of respondents claim to have made financial cut-backs due to the current economic situation. For example, more than half (62%) of respondents reported making dietary changes in response to the rising costs of food. Additionally, stress, lack of sleep and anxiety were cited as the top three headache triggers. All of these conditions were also reported as occurring as a result of the economic strain on the participants’ lifestyles. When asked about treatment methods, we found that 63% rely on prescribed medications for their headache. However, the economic toll has caused 29% of the respondents to either delay or skip filling prescriptions for their headache medications. More than half answered that they switched to over-the-counter (OTC) medication instead of using their prescription medication to treat their headaches in an effort to save money. Substituting OTCs may be ineffective for treating migraine, causing undue pain and suffering. Other survey results demonstrated that 43% of respondents said they have made changes in spending on healthcare purchases such as services or medications. Another 48% reported “concern or uncertainty about the future” as a headache trigger. An even 50% of respondents attributed dietary changes as having an effect on their headaches. So what can you do to weather this economic storm? Here are a few tips:

Migraine occurs approximately three times more frequently in women than men. The exact reason(s) for this difference is not completely understood, but hormone fluctuations are considered to be a main culprit. Approximately three out of four women with migraine experience attacks that correspond to their menstrual cycle or endure their most severe attacks during this time. Menstrual migraine typically occurs in a predictable pattern. Headache diaries are useful for discerning this pattern, which is necessary for diagnosis and to time treatment appropriately. Once menstrual migraine is confirmed, drug treatments can be taken in an anticipatory manner to help maximize their ability to reduce or eliminate migraine pain and associated symptoms.

All questions answered by: Richard Wenzel, PharmD Diamond Headache Clinic Inpatient Unit St. Joseph’s Hospital, Chicago, IL Approximately 15 million migraine sufferers exclusively use over-the-counter medications to treat their illness. This preference for OTC drugs results from several factors, including the ease of purchasing OTC products, their low cost (especially in comparison to prescription drugs), and their generally wide safety margin. While many patients successfully treat their migraine attacks with OTC agents, a significant proportion of sufferers fail to obtain adequate relief from these medications.

By Philip Bain, M.D. Wilkinson Medical Clinic Hartland, Wisconsin THE CASE RT is a 38-year-old female who visited her primary care physician for evaluation of frequent headaches. She began experiencing headaches at age 20, which she described as intermittent, moderately severe, throbbing headaches that lasted one to two days and were associated with nausea and light sensitivity. The headaches would usually begin one day prior to the onset of menstrual bleeding. She was able to treat them with over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics such as the combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine. These headaches began to occur at other times during the month and increased in frequency over the next ten years. While the headaches still responded to the OTC combination, she gradually had to increase her use of the medication. At times, when she had an important family or work obligation, she would take the medication to 'prevent' a bad headache from occurring. By her early thirties, RT occasionally missed work due to headaches. Though she previously was a very sound sleeper, her sleep pattern gradually became more disrupted. She would often wake in the early morning with a bad headache. She also began to notice that it was taking more medication to achieve the same level of pain relief. Her family noticed that she was becoming more irritable and even wondered if she could be depressed. This prompted her to make an appointment with her physician. She told him that she just didn't want to live like this anymore.

Ice and heat can be used to lessen the pain of headaches. In general, most sufferers with migraine headache prefer cold packs. Sufferers with tension-type or muscle contraction headaches may prefer warm packs. It depends on the individual sufferer. The same cold or warm principles...