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Every year 45 million Americans seek medical treatment for severe head pain. Countless more suffer in silence. And women in particular are susceptible: 90% of us will feel the dull ache of a tension headache at some point in our lives, and we're three times more likely than men to be sidelined with migraines. But whether your head hurts once in a while or all too frequently, our expert tips can help.
Step 1: Determine Your Headache Type
Figuring out which type of pain you're experiencing is perhaps the most important first step in prevention and treatment.
If you've ever felt like your head's being squeezed in a vise, then you're familiar with the most common variety: tension headaches. This pressure-like sensation—which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to seven days—hurts, but usually not enough to keep you from going about your day-to-day business.
A migraine, on the other hand, is like a headache on steroids. Sufferers endure pain so severe that even activities like walking are unbearable. And apart from the head pain, people with migraines may feel nauseated, be extremely sensitive to light and sound, and experience visual disturbances called auras that produce wavy lines, flashing lights or blind spots. These attacks can persist for a few days and sometimes even longer.