Glossary: Headache

Acupuncture: An alternative therapy based on the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body to prevent or treat certain health conditions.


Aneurysm: An abnormal thinning or balloon-like bulging of the wall of an artery. The bursting of an aneurysm in a brain artery or blood vessel causes a subarachnoid hemorrhage and may lead to stroke.


Biofeedback: A method by which a person learns to control bodily functions usually considered to be involuntary, including skin temperature, muscle contraction, heart rate, blood pressure and brain waves.


Brain tumor: An abnormal growth on or in the brain. Although not always cancerous, brain tumors are always serious because they create pressure on the brain and other structures as they grow.


Computed Axial Tomography (CT or CAT scan): A sophisticated imaging test that uses x-rays to create cross-sectional images.


Cervical trigeminal relay: A concept that explains how pain signals are transferred along the various nerves of the head and neck, and why pain that originates in one location may actually be “felt” in a different location.


Chronic daily headache: The name given to a syndrome characterized by frequent (generally daily) headaches of one type, including tension headache, post-traumatic headache, and rebound headache.


Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania: A rare form of severe headache similar to Cluster Headache, but occurring slightly more often in women. It responds to treatment very differently from cluster headache.


Cluster headache: A rare form of severe headache, occurring most often in men, characterized by sharp, penetrating pain that can disappear for months, then reoccur in daily series of excruciating pain punctuated by periods of relief.


Electroencephalography (EEG): A test in which a number of small electrodes are attached to the scalp and connected to an instrument that measures and records the electrical impulses produced by the brain.


Lumbar puncture: Also known also as a spinal tap, this test involves inserting a needle into the spinal canal to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A sophisticated imaging method that uses a strong magnetic field to produce a highly detailed images of soft tissues. Magnetic resonance images can demonstrate even slight differences between normal and abnormal tissues.


Meninges: The three layers of tissues that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.


Meningitis: An infection of the meninges caused by bacteria or a virus. Bacterial meningitis is potentially fatal, while viral meningitis is generally less serious.


Migraine: A severe headache, lasting from a few hours to a few days, which may be accompanied by disturbances of vision, nausea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms.


Placebo effect: The apparent treatment effect of a chemically inert substance given in place of a drug; the effect is generally thought to be caused by the recipient’s belief that he/she is receiving the drug and that it will have some effect.


Post-traumatic headache: The name given to a chronic headache condition caused by injury to the head or neck.


Rebound headache: A type of headache caused by withdrawal from headache pain relievers.


Sinusitis: Inflammation of the membrane lining of the facial sinuses, the air-filled cavities in the bones surrounding the nose.


Soft tissue: Tissues of the body other than bone, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerve cells.


Stroke: Massive cell damage or death caused by the sudden interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain.


Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding caused by a ruptured blood vessel that leaks into the subarachnoid space between the brain and the skull. This space between the web-like arachnoid membrane and the surface of the brain is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. It acts as a cushion to protect the brain from blows.


Temporal arteritis: An inflammation of the arteries of the brain and head which causes headaches and changes in vision; occurs most often in those over 50 years old.


Tension headache: The most common type of headache; it is most often described as feeling like a tight band encircling the head.

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