Headaches and backaches are extremely common complaints. Headaches not caused by medical conditions are usually migraine, tension and cluster headaches, while many backaches result from simple muscle strain. Backache and headache together can sometimes indicate underlying medical conditions. See your doctor for frequent, severe headaches or back pain that doesn't improve within 72 hours. Mayo Clinic advises seeking emergency medical care if back pain spreads down your legs, causes weakness and tingling in legs, or is accompanied by incontinence.
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Primary Headache With Backache
It is possible that you are suffering from a migraine, tension or cluster headache and have a backache resulting from strain or poor posture. MayoClinic.com notes that primary headaches are caused by overactivity of the pain-sensitive features in your head; genetics also can play a role. A migraine is a severe, throbbing headache that can last for three days; visual disturbances can occur as well. A tension headache results from muscle tension around the head and neck, while cluster headaches are one-sided, with nasal congestion, a watery eye on the same side as the headache and stabbing pain. MayoClinic.com notes certain activities can trigger headaches, such as sex, exercise or coughing. Alcohol, lack of sleep, too much sleep, skipped meals, stress, wearing tight-fitting headgear and poor posture also can cause headaches.
Secondary Headache With Backache
A secondary headache -- meaning a headache caused by a medical condition -- can indicate a viral or bacterial infection, including encephalitis, influenza, meningitis, or sinusitis. Some of these conditions can cause backache as well. Headaches can arise from an injury, such as a concussion. MayoClinic.com notes that a headache also can accompany a stroke, an aneurysm or brain tumor. If you experience headache along with a stiff neck, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting -- or have trouble seeing, speaking or walking -- seek emergency medical help.
Headache and backaches in women are classic symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Premenstrual syndrome, which occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle, is caused by fluctuating hormone levels. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, you also may experience bloating and weight gain, depression, anxiety, cramps and swollen, tender breasts. You can treat PMS with diuretics, anti-inflammatory medications and antidepressants; stress reduction and improvements in diet also can help.
Alternating Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Headache -- and sometimes even backache -- can be symptoms of alternating irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating and irregular bowel habits; with alternating IBS, both diarrhea and constipation can occur. There is a physical link between IBS and headache pain. According to Mary Kay Betz, a licensed physician's assistant and national headache lecturer in Buffalo, NY, the serotonin receptor responsible for migraine headaches is actually found to a much greater degree in the gut than in the brain. Betz adds that diarrhea is closely associated with migraine headaches. Although there is no cure for IBS, symptoms can be managed with the help of added soluble fiber in the diet, along with anti-diarrhea medications and other drugs.