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Online Tool to Assess What Kind of Headaches You Have

Migraine, tension-type, sinus, cluster. . . . You know what your headache feels like and the other symptoms you have. Seems like finding a diagnosis would be easy, but it can be quite complicated. Consider these factors:

Headache Central, an educational site sponsored by the Michigan Headache Treatment Network, has a tool to help classify your headaches in medical terms. The online program asks questions about your headaches, determining which questions to ask based on your previous responses. After you’ve answered all the questions, you’re given a page with your responses and possible diagnoses summarized in a doctor-friendly format to print and take to your next appointment.

The program is not intended for you to diagnose yourself but to provide your doctor with a more complete view of what you’re experiencing. Of course, many readers will use the information to guide further online research. Arriving at your doctor’s office well-informed is helpful; so is being open to what they have to say. Think of the headache classification tool a starting point from which your doc can ask you relevant questions (and vice versa) to flesh out your diagnosis and find the appropriate treatment for you.

FYI: The program doesn’t work in Firefox.

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Headache Types: Mayo Clinic’s Online Headache Center

Right after I made a note to myself to blog about different headache types, the latest issue of Housecall, Mayo Clinic’s weekly newsletter, arrived in my inbox. The issue’s feature was, you guessed it, headaches.

Mayo’s online headache center has a wealth of information on headache types, pain meds and self-care. The headache types covered are:

For each type, there is an extensive subset of topics, including signs and symptoms, causes, screening and diagnosis, coping skills, and prevention.

The headache center is a terrific place to discover more about this illness. Poke around for a while — I guarantee you’ll learn something new.

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Nasal Surgery May Ease Headaches

People who have places inside their nasal passages or sinuses that touch each other may have headaches triggered or caused by those contact areas. In a recent study, 18 of the 21 participants who had surgery to correct the contact areas say that their headaches improved by 25% or more after the operation.

Read the full article: Nasal Surgery May Ease Migraines for Some

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Enough is Enough: Rebound Headaches

News anchors, journalists and medical websites have warned that “painkillers might be causing your pain!” too many times to count. OK, OK, rebound headaches are nasty; so are chronic daily headaches and migraines. I want to know how much is too much. Not vague amounts, but clear, precise doses.

In comes the conflicting advice. One doctor said to rotate Imitrex, Migranal and Advil every three days to avoid rebounds. Another said that it’s perfectly fine to take a triptan a couple days a week and an OTC painkiller another few days. Of course, no doctor knew just how much Advil I took because I was afraid to admit the amount to myself, much less say it out loud.

When dignity took a backseat to pain relief, I stopped the painkillers. Four years later, I can barely remember how much better I felt when I took occasional painkillers. I often forget that it’s even an option. But I do remember my headache specialist telling me that the goal of my treatment is to make me feel like I do when I take Advil*. Lately, the forbidden drug has started calling my name.

Because my headache specialist, who I think is terrific, relies on the International Headache Association’s standards, I’ll do the same. IHS’s bottom line is that rebounds are likely if you take painkillers or migraine abortants more than once or twice a week or more than 10 times a month. As you well know, nothing is one size fits all, but these are good guidelines.

Think you might be in rebound? Here are some frequently prescribed meds that can cause rebound headaches. You’ll be miserable if you stop them cold turkey, so get your doc’s advice first.

Triptans: Amerge, Axert, Frova, Imitrex, Maxalt, Relpax, Zomig

Ergots: Cafergot, D.H.E. 45, Migranal, Sansert

OTC Painkillers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin, Vanquish), Asprin (Bayer, Bufferin), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen Sodium (Aleve)

Prescription NSAIDs: Indomethacin (Indocin), Ketorolac Tromethamine (Toradol), Naproxen Sodium (Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn), Piroxicam (Feldene)

Opioids: Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq), Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Norco), Morphine (MSIR, MS Contin, Oramorph), Oxycodone (Roxicodone, OxyContin, OxyFast, OxyIR)

The scariest part about stopping the meds is that your headaches might not change or may even worsen.The underlying condition that prompted you to take them in the first place is probably still there. Even if you don’t get immediate relief, your headaches may be easier to treat in the long run with fewer drugs getting in the way. And your kidneys will thank you.

*Advil doesn’t get rid of my headaches, but it sometimes reduces the severity of the pain. For me, feeling “much better” is having pain that’s below threshold that would keep me in bed.