Here is an interesting thought: how much does a headache cost?
This should give you a good idea: in 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the worldwide economic impact of headaches was around 155 billion Euros (237 billion Canadian dollars as of this writing). You read that correctly: hundreds of billions of dollars due to the humble headache. This estimate was based on a comprehensive “atlas” of headaches around the world, and a calculation of resulting lost productivity.
Hard to believe? Consider: in the same estimate the WHO calculated that 2.6% of all disabling illness was a headache disorder of some kind. That means if you had 100 people in a room, all with a disabling illness, three of them would be disabled from a headache.
The estimate above only accounts for lost productivity. It says nothing about the cost to individuals or health care systems. Headaches are responsible for a lot of emergency room visits and a vast amount of over the counter medications.
And the cost of the medication goes beyond the wallet, potentially causing serious health problems. For example, a recent study drew a potential link between acetaminophen (found in Tylenol, Neocitran, Nyquil, etc.) use during pregnancy and ADHD in the resulting child. That same drug has caused hundreds of deaths — including over 300 suicides — thousands of hospital visits, and tens of millions of dollars in costs to health care in the last decade and a half. Granted these deaths and injuries as a percentage of users is low, but the fact remains that over the counter painkillers are not without risk, especially when used long term.
So what are headaches? The word headache describes in the simplest possible way what it entails: pain in the head. It can be in any part, to any degree, and last for any amount of time. It may happen once in a while, it may happen every day for weeks.
They are often fleeting and forgotten, giving no cause for concern. There are two points, however, at which a headache starts to exact a cost: when it’s severe and when it’s chronic. Chronic, in this case, means that you have more days with a headache than without. The Mayo Clinic defines a chronic headache as occurring 15 days a month for at least three months. There is no objective way to measure severity of pain. Only you know if the pain you experience is getting to be too much, affecting mood and energy.
In either case it begs the question: what is really causing it? It is easy to suppress the pain and cover up both what and why, and finding that one spark that started the fire can be difficult. Is it a muscle problem? Dehydration? Something you did or did not eat? Experiencing ambient pressure change, as with flying or SCUBA diving? Perhaps your glasses have the wrong prescription, you just hit your head playing hockey, or you have had too much caffeine or alcohol.
Here is the most important part about diagnosing the cause of your headaches: do not do it yourself. The location of the pain may provide clues, but an MRI may be necessary is some cases.
Besides MRIs and other advanced scanning technology there is the possibility of hormonal or nutritional imbalance, subtle allergies, heavy metal toxicity, and so on. Maybe your headaches are caused by a lack of magnesium. Sometimes the foundational cause is so simple that it provides an easy path to relief.
A variety of treatment options are at hand to treat the true cause of the issue, simple or not. Which one to use depends on your situation. Maybe IV therapy would be perfect for you, or acupuncture, or dietary assessment and change. Perhaps a single vitamin supplement is all you need. What matters is what works for you and your whole body. Treating the cause is more effective than pain killers, no contest.
And that has been the point of your whole journey with headaches: to live without pain. You do not have to live with pain or with over the counter drugs. Just contact us to learn more and to schedule a consultation.