Mid-Missouri physician shares headache treatment tips

Dr. Younker said there are three main types of headaches: migraines, tension headaches, and cluster migraines. (KRCG)

New research showed headaches can frequently cause more than just minor annoyance. The Journal of Headache and Pain reported headache disorders are the third-leading cause of disability world-wide.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health Primary Care Physician Dr. Joanna Younker about how to know if a headache is a passing inconvenience, or if it's something that needs medical attention.

Dr. Younker said headaches are a frequent complaint for many of her patients. She said the first step in diagnosing headaches is deciding what type of headache is causing the patient pain.

She said there are three different categories of headaches: migraines, tension headaches, and cluster migraines. Each have their own set of symptoms.

"With migraines, patients have vision changes, so they'll have blurry vision or vision loss, and they'll typically be on one side of the head," she said. "Tension headaches are typically going to be band or squeezing type headaches caused by stress or muscle tension in the neck; and cluster headaches normally affect males, sit right behind the eye, and are very painful."

No matter which type you experience, Dr. Younker said headaches can become a major burden if they're a frequent occurrence.

"We know overall that headaches in the American workforce cost us billions of dollars in time lost, and even visits to the doctor," she said. "So if you're having frequent headaches where you're out of work and you're missing work, then you should really be on a daily medication to stop that headache from even coming in the first place."

Dr. Younker said prevention doesn't always have to include medication; she said sometimes, staying ahead of a potential headache can be as simple as staying hydrated. If that doesn't help, she advised trying to find a dark place to relax at the onset of headache symptoms.

"If you're having a migraine and you're having too much noise and light, that's just gonna keep triggering it to keep amplifying and having worse symptoms," she said.

Dr. Younker said over the counter anti-inflammatory medications can also help; but if your headache persists, it could be time to see a doctor.

"Things like Tylenol and Aleve are gonna be what we would recommend if you've had this headache before, it is what it always looks like, and it's not different for you," she said. "But if it's new, different, or changed, come see your primary care doctor."

For those who are interested in learning more about headaches, SSM Health is holding a free "Lunch and Learn" session Thursday, March 1. Dr. Younker and two physicians specializing in pain management will discuss migraine diagnoses and the latest in treatment options.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off