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Get to Know More about your Headache

  • Headaches are quite common.
  • Nearly all of us have suffered from a headache at some point.
  • The headache you experience may not be the same as someone else’s.

The most common types of primary headaches are tension, migraine cluster headaches and medication-overuse headache.1 Each type of headache has its own pattern of pain and cause, so once you know what type of headache you have, the better you’ll be able to deal with it.1 Headaches aren't just for grown-ups either. Children get them too, including tension headaches – the only difference is they can’t always tell you, especially younger children .2 Although they’re not always serious, it’s important to keep an eye on headaches in children and consult a doctor if they get worse.1


Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache worldwide, with up to 80% of us experiencing one at some point in our lives.3 A tension headache feels like there is pressure around your head, as if it’s being squeezed tight.1 The pain can be constant and often affects both sides of your head, like a tight band has been stretched around it.4 You might also feel it in your neck too.4 These headaches usually last for a few hours but may occasionally continue for several days.1 However, tension headaches are not usually severe and mostly you can get on with what you're doing.4Causes and triggers of tension headaches. When you get a tension headache it can feel like the pain is coming from your head. The source of the pain, however, could be the muscles in your scalp, neck and around your head.5 When these muscles are strained, chemicals called prostaglandins can be released at the site of the injury.5 These prostaglandins stimulate pain receptors, which, in turn, can make you feel pain in and around the head area.5 

Several triggers can be linked to the cause of strained muscles:

  • Stress and anxiety may cause you to feel tense and tighten muscles4
  • Poor posture may cause the muscles in your neck, face, and head to be tensed when working at your desk4
  • Dehydration, too much or too little sleep, too many coffees/caffeine drinks, lack of exercise and female hormone fluctuations can also trigger tension headaches.6

Treating tension headaches

Pain relievers work well in tension headache. The medicine in Nurofen 200 mg Coated Tablets, ibuprofen, for example, is a well-known treatment for tension headaches. Ibuprofen can inhibit the formation of prostaglandins by strained muscles, to help ease pain.7

Other treatments for tension headaches include paracetamol and aspirin.1
Of course, there are things you can do to help prevent tension headaches, such as:4, 6

  • Physiotherapy for the head and neck muscles
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation therapy, such as breathing exercises and meditation.

Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets can also be used to treat other conditions associated with mild to moderate pain and fever. Find out more about Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets. Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches, usually referred to simply as "migraines", are also a common type of primary headaches.1 Between 15-25% of the population experience migraines and it affects three times as many women than men.1 Migraines are felt typically as a pulsating, throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head.1 However, for some, it doesn't just involve a feeling of moderate-to-severe pain in and around the head, you often have other symptoms too.1 These can include being sensitive to light and/or to sound or your headache feeling worse when doing everyday activities.1 You might feel nauseous and may even vomit during a migraine attack. Around a third of people with migraine experience an aura before their headache, where they have changes in their vision or have numbness of their hand, arm or face.1 Migraines can have a major impact on your life, stopping you from being able to do things and some people may prefer a quiet, dark environment to help cope with a migrane.1

Causes and triggers of migraine

Migraine is a disorder in the way the brain processes pain and other sensations.8 It’s often passed on through families, so if your parents or grandparents have it, there’s a chance you could experience migraines too.8 Although there are many different things that can trigger a migraine, these are often unique to you, so it can be hard to pin down your particular triggers.8

The most common migraine triggers include:8

  • Diet – although some foods and alcohols can cause a migraine, it’s much more likely that you’ll get one if you miss a meal or are dehydrated
  • Sleep – sleeping in or lack of sleep can be an issue. So, it’s best to try and get a good night’s sleep every night, waking up at the same time every day, even at weekends
  • Travel – long-distance travel across time zones
  • Intense exercise
  • Lights – bright or flickering lights
  • Smells – strong smells
  • Weather – changes in the weather
  • Stress
  • Hormones in women – migraines can be worse around a period or when taking hormone replacement therapy.

If you’re not sure what causes your migraine, it can help to keep a migraine diary where you can record how often you get a migraine, how long it lasted, what you did on that day, what treatment you used and how well it worked.8 A handy downloadable diary is available from Migraine Ireland.


Treating migraines

A stepped approach to managing migraines may help when:1

  • Step 1: an over-the-counter pain reliever. The medicine in Nurofen Rapid Relief 200mg and 400mg Liquid Capsules, ibuprofen, is recommended for migraine headache but other options include aspirin or paracetamol.
  • Step 2: if pain relievers have not been effective, a migraine-specific treatment might be recommended by your GP. These are known as triptans and work best if they are taken when your migraine headache is still mild. Please speak to your healthcare professional to understand what alternative treatment options are the most appropriate for you.

If you find you are having migraines regularly, you should see your doctor as they can prescribe medication that prevents headache.1 Also be aware that taking migraine medication more days than not for more than three months, could cause you to develop a medication overuse headache.1

To help prevent migraine, you can try:1, 8

  • Identifying your own specific triggers and avoiding these as much as you can
  • Exercising regularly
  • Relaxation therapies
  • Acupuncture

Nurofen Rapid Relief 200mg or 400mg Liquid Capsules can also be used to treat other conditions associated with mild to moderate pain and fever. Find out more about Nurofen Rapid Relief Maximum Strength 400mg Liquid Capsules. Nurofen 200mg Rapid Relief and Nurofen Rapid Relief Maximum Strength 400mg Liquid Capsules contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.


Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are extremely intense, severe headaches.1 Fortunately, they are quite rare.1 Only about 1-3 in every 1000 people suffer from this type of headache.1 Cluster headaches are experienced in groups or "clusters" once or twice a year.1 The clusters involve at least one headache that can often happens at night, making you wake up about one to two hours after you’ve gone to bed.1, 9 Usually this happens at the same time night or day for 6-12 weeks and then it stops, but another cluster can appear at least three months later.1, 9 Oddly, it’s more common in the spring and autumn months.9 The intense pain is usually focused on the area around and behind one eye and lasts for between 15 minutes to three hours.1 There are often other symptoms too, which affect the same side of the face as the headache.1 These include a red, watery eye, a blocked or runny nostril and a droopy eyelid.1 People with cluster headaches can feel very agitated and restless during the attack, finding it difficult to keep still or lie down and even rocking frantically backwards and forwards.1, 9


Causes and triggers of cluster headaches

The exact cause of cluster headaches is the subject of much research. But it has been linked to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which plays an important role in controlling our natural body clock.9 Alcohol can trigger a cluster headache attack during a cluster episode but has no effect at other times.9 Certain medicines that open the blood vessels can also be a trigger, but it’s not known why.


Treating cluster headaches

If you have cluster headache symptoms, you need to see your doctor. Over the counter medicines are less likely to work, prescription medicines are needed to treat and prevent future cluster headaches.9


Medication Overuse Headaches

A medication overuse headache develops as a result of some other underlying cause.1 That’s usually a tension or migraine headache.1 It’s not that common, with just 1-2% of adults experiencing medication overuse headache.1 If you find you have a headache for more than 15 days of the month, it could be a medication overuse headache.1 Another sign is that your pain is worst first thing in the morning.1

Treating and preventing medication overuse headache
The only way to treat medication overuse headache is to stop taking your headache treatment.1 You might find that your headache is worse for the first week or two, and it can take a couple of months before your headache is fully gone.1 So, take care with your headache treatments. If you find you’re regularly needing to take headache medicines more than a couple of times a week, that’s a sign to see your doctor who can who can review your situation and advise on an appropriate treatment if necessary.1


Sinus Headache

A sinus headache is a type of secondary headache.1 Sinuses are the cavities behind your nose, eyes and cheeks.10 Sinus headaches can occur as a result of inflamed sinuses and the build-up of mucus, usually after a viral infection, such as a cold or flu.1 If you have a sinus headache, you’ll feel a deep, dull ache in your face and surrounding areas of your head, that can feel worse when you move.11 You can also expect to have cold-like symptoms too, such as a fever or runny nose.11 Some people think they have sinus headache, when it’s actually a migraine.11


Treating sinus headaches

Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol can help relieve sinus headache, while decongestants can ease a blocked nose.10 Nurofen Sinus & Pain Tablets contain ibuprofen to relieve pain plus the decongestant pseudoephedrine to give you dual action relief of sinus headache.
Find out more about Nurofen Sinus & Pain Tablets. Nurofen Sinus & Pain Film Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen and Psuedoephedrine Hydrochloride. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.


Hormone headaches

Some headaches suffered by women are hormone-related.12 These can include menstrual migraines.12 In fact, many women have noticed a link between their headaches and their periods, and you might find that your headaches are more frequent and painful around this time of the month.12 Menstrual migraines can occur as a result of a drop in the level of the female hormone oestrogen.12 There can be other hormone-related reasons too:12

  • Some women find their migraines improve when on the combined oral contraceptive pill, although others may find the opposite
  • As women get closer to the menopause, they may find that their migraines become more frequent and severe. This is usually due to reduced oestrogen levels, which tend to settle once through the menopause. Hormone replacement therapy tablets can make migraines worse, while patches and gels can improve them
  • In pregnancy, headaches may worsen in the first few months, but usually improve in the last months of pregnancy. If pregnant or breastfeeding please consult with your Healthcare Professional or Pharmacist for an appropriate treatment to treat your symptoms.

In addition, chemicals known as prostaglandins, which are released before and during a period could also help trigger migraine headaches.12


Treating and preventing hormone headaches

Hormone-related migraines can be treated in the same way as regular migraines.12 Migraine treatments can provide pain relief. But treatment needs to be suited to your individual requirements. So, for further advice, consult your doctor if you think you may have a hormone-related migraine or other types of hormone headache.

Also, anything that normally triggers your migraine can still continue to do so whatever your hormone status.12 These can include, diet, sleep, weather, stress, dehydration and a regular sleep pattern and avoiding stress and bright or flickering lights.12 If pregnant or breastfeeding please consult with your Healthcare Professional or Pharmacist for an appropriate treatment to treat your symptoms.

What else can cause headaches?
There is a wide range of other factors that can lead to a headache. These include headaches associated with excessive alcohol intake, colds and flu or a ‘temporomandibular disorder’ affecting the chewing muscles in your jaw.1 A head injury, concussion and carbon monoxide poisoning may also be causes of headaches.

Nurofen 200mg Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever.
Nurofen Express 200mg Tablets contain ibuprofen as sodium dihydrate. For mild to moderate pain and fever.
Nurofen Express Maximum Strength 400mg Tablets contain ibuprofen as sodium dihydrate. For mild to moderate pain and fever.
Nurofen Rapid Relief 200mg Liquid Capsules contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever.
Nurofen Rapid Relief Maximum Strength 400mg Liquid Capsules contain ibuprofen. For mild to moderate pain and fever.
Nurofen Sinus & Flu Film Coated Tablets contain ibuprofen and Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride.

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these webpages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health matters for further advice please speak to you doctor or pharmacist. We are committed to keeping personal information secure. RB-M-21236. Date of Preparation: May 2021.