How to get rid of headaches as it's revealed how common they are (particularly in women)

·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·5-min read
Woman with headache. (Getty Images)
Women endure the most, and worst, headaches. (Getty Images)

Women are more likely to suffer from all types of headaches than men - and for longer at a time.

Some 6% of women endure headaches for at least half of every month, compared to just 2.9% of men, a new study reveals.

Women are also twice as likely to suffer from migraines at 17%, compared to 8.6% of men, the review of global estimates of headaches finds.

"Women suffer much more than men from the most disabling headaches – migraines and headaches which last for 15 or more days a month," Lars Jacob Stovner, who led the research, told the Daily Mail.

"This matters because severe headaches which are unpredictable and happen often make it very hard to deal with life's responsibilities like staying in a job or caring for a family."

It's possible women could partly suffer more headaches due to changes in hormones, with more than half of women who get migraines noticing a link with their periods, as reported by the National Migraine Centre. The combined pill, the menopause and pregnancy could also be triggers of hormone headaches.

Woman with a headache
Women are twice as likely to suffer from migraines, with 6% enduring them for 15 days or more each month. (Getty Images)

Overall, in the new study, analysis of 357 publications between 1961-2020 suggests that more than half (52%) of the global population are affected by a headache disorder every year, as published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

Researchers estimate that 15.8% of the world's population have a headache on any given day (around one in six people).

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The authors noted, however, that the majority of the studies were of high-income countries, and more studies are needed in low- and middle-income countries. That said, they did use a broad range of studies with participants outside of clinical settings, such as employees, university students and hospital staff.

Stovner said: “We found that the prevalence of headache disorders remains high worldwide and the burden of different types may impact many. We should endeavour to reduce this burden through prevention and better treatment. To measure the effect of such efforts, we must be able to monitor prevalence and burden in societies. Our study helps us understand how to improve our methods.”

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He added: “Compared to our previous report and global estimates, the data does suggest that headaches and migraines rates may be increasing. However, given that we could explain only 30% or less of the variation in headache estimates with the measures we looked at, it would be premature to conclude headaches are definitively increasing.

"What is clear is that overall, headache disorders are highly prevalent worldwide and can be a high burden. It may also be of interest in future to analyse the different causes of headaches that varied across groups to target prevention and treatment more effectively.”

Read more: Why do we suffer from headaches before a thunderstorm?

What causes a headache?

A headache can be caused by many things, such as a cold or flu, stress, drinking too much alcohol, bad posture, eyesight problems, not eating regular meals, not drinking enough fluids, taking too many painkillers, as previously said having your period or menopause, or for no obvious reason at all.

How to get rid of a headache

To help get rid of a headache, make sure you drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, try and relax as stress can make exacerbate headaches, and take paracetamol or ibuprofen.

However, try to avoid sleeping more than you usually would as this can make the headache worse, or straining your eyes for a long time, like looking at a screen.

Woman takes shower in the bathroom. Feminine hygiene rules concept
Can't shake a headache? Try a cold shower. (Getty Images)

Plus, while they might not be long term solutions, you can try and ease a headache fast by placing a cold pack on your forehead at intervals of time, or having a cold shower, to ease the discomfort. Or, using the opposite method for a tension headache, you can try using a heat pad on the back of your head or neck. With a sinus a headache, a warm cloth to the affected area could help reduce pain.

If you're suffering from a migraine, dimming the lights is also thought to help, as light can be a trigger. Wearing blue light glasses, adding anti-glare screens to your computer and using special lightbulbs could also be a useful preventative method.

To help prevent a hormone headache the NHS suggests eating small, frequent snacks to keep your blood sugar level up, a regular sleep pattern, and avoiding stress with methods like exercise.

Read more: How to get rid of a headache

Make sure you see a GP if your headaches keep coming back, painkillers do not help and it gets worse, you have a bad throbbing pain at the front or side of your head (it could be a migraine, or more rarely, a cluster headache, which is excruciating attacks of pain in one side of the head), or if you feel sick, vomit and find light or noise painful.

Get an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if you or your child has a severe headache and jaw pain when eating, blurred or double vision, a sore scalp, or other symptoms like numbness or weakness in the arms and legs. For more information on when to get urgent help for headaches, visit the NHS website.

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