Mt St Helens – The 41 Experience

Anthony’s Mountain Experience

Running Mt St Helens – Monitor Ridge

From the perspective of celebrity trainer Anthony McClanahan, brought to you by 41 Sports.



I have an extensive training background.  I played professional football for a long time, and for years I have been the owner of 41 Sports, a fitness training company. I train for three to five hours per day, with two rest days a week, and even as a grandpa, I am in amazing shape.  I treat my body well, and fuel it properly, so keep these things in mind when you read about my experience on the mountain, because it is likely not like many! But if you are in 41 Sports shape, and you would like to experience something similar, maybe you will go with me next time.




With an incredible amount of energy, and a couple of hikers taking my lead to join me in getting an experience of a lifetime, I took off up the trail through the thick forest.  Eager to see what was next, we all flew through the trees.  Switchbacks for nearly 800 yards brought us to new growth, and I felt driven to continue.

As we tore through the new growth, I looked up and could see the side of the mountain above the trees. It is volcanic ash and rocks, straight up.


Weather Station

At about 1000 feet elevation, we reached a weather station. It came up suddenly since we were running.   Surrounding the weather station, there was level ground, snow, ice, and rocks. We took a break for a while to refuel. I didn’t feel like I needed much of a break, but it was good for the hikers who were with me. I was a little numb, no sickness, but at this point people often have nausea. We had some water and a little food, and took in the view of Mt Adams and Mt Hood before we took off again.

The view was intense. We were up past the clouds. My guess, by about thirty stories. You could see them settling on the trees below.  A couple hours later we began to catch up to and pass people who left early that morning.

On the way up, the hikers began to run out of water. I was carrying my pack and another hiker’s pack, so once in a while we would stop for a couple minutes, and I would share my extra water with the hikers.



Hiking and climbing on the rocks and the boulders was extreme. There were huge boulders; one that I saw was the size of my Hummer. It balanced on a ridge of smaller boulders and rocks, waiting to fall at too strong a breeze. My body felt energized. I felt like there was a plethora of oxygen. Breathing came supernaturally.  Many at 6,000 feet feel the air being sucked out of their lungs, but I felt as if it was being pushed into mine.  It was as if my whole life I had been a fish managing to breathe on land, but someone finally put me in a lake, and I could really breathe.  It was bizarre yet wonderful.

Every time I looked up there was a boulder. It felt like it would never end.


Volcanic Ash

Scoria, or lava rock, is sharp, and it grinds into a fine ash. This is mixed with volcanic ash from past eruptions, and makes for a one-of-a-kind experience in hiking. In a sense, it is slippery; one step forward may feel like one step backwards.  But I was quick-stepping, chanting one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!  It was great!  At about 7000 feet, I had a brilliant view, and a powerful sense of determination.  It egged me on and came out strong as I encouraged the other hikers to continue.


The Top

Magnificent. Incredible. The most beautiful view I have had in my life so far. There aren’t enough words in the world for the vast view that stretched as far as the eye could see.  The height of the top is 8363 feet.

It was surreal. I did not want to pass out, or feel that way one bit. I wanted to take pictures and feel that accomplishment. It was like something out of an epic movie. I wanted to stay up there, live up there, but surviving up there’s not likely! Ha!

I wish that there were perfect words to describe the beauty, the feeling of accomplishment, and the relief of reaching the top of Mt St Helens, but it was unlike anything I have experienced in my life.


Heading Back Down

Going back down the ash was difficult, but we made it.

Since the hikers ran out of water, and I had been sharing mine, I ran out on the way down. Then, we found a waterfall from the melted snow. It was beautiful, and we knew we’d be out of trail soon, since the snow was melting.

All in all, it was a great experience. It was an excellent day for me.

Advice, and Next Time

I have some advice for you. Food and water is a must. Be sure you bring enough, because you will need it.  Also, wear pants, sleeves, and gloves. It is amazing how much difference this makes. On your way up, you will see people who tried to wear shorts, or didn’t wear gloves, and how much the volcanic rock beat them up. It scratches you because it is really sharp, even the ash has ridges.

Speaking of the sharp rocks, wear good shoes, and insoles. My shoes got really beat-up, and even got holes in them. It is funny, now, I like to say, “the mountain ate my shoes,” but really, the only thing that kept my toes from getting cut up was my insoles. The shoes were Adidas, and the insoles were Pro-Feet, in case you are interested.  Just know that good shoes and insoles are highly important.

Next time, or next mountain, I will definitely bring a bigger pack, and more water. Even though I had stocked up on plenty for myself, and then some just in case, I hadn’t accounted for the hikers who were with me running out so quickly. Remember, you need water on the way up, and on the way down.

Also, I would honestly like to start running from the very bottom part of the mountain, the dirt road you drive up to get to the trail head. Only then will I feel like I have run the whole mountain. To run up that logging road in addition to the trail – that will be the ultimate experience.

So who is with me next time? See you at the top!



What To Bring!

Hey bootcampers and adventurers! We at 41 Sports want you to be prepared for your adventures with us!

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Especially with this hike up the mountain coming up, we want you to have the right gear.


Here is some advice on what to bring on your hike:

Water & Food – You may want a little supply of nutrients on you. It isn’t 41 style to be stopping and eating and drinking all the way up the hike, however, you may come to a point where your body needs something to keep going, and it would be terrible if that point came and there was nothing available. We take extra care to ensure you make it up and back down our hikes with the group, and we all know there is strength in numbers. We aren’t suggesting, however, that getting lost is absolutely impossible, so you may want to keep that in mind, also.

Pocket Knife -You never know when you might need something sharp! 🙂

Jacket/Pants – You may think you are going to be hot, and you might be, but we also wouldn’t want you to get scraped up, or freeze yourself if the rains come, or a harsh wind picks up!

Fire – Maybe a box of waterproof matches, or a firestarter, would be a good idea. Like we said before, just in case of anything.

Headlamp or Flashlight – Sometimes we leave before the sun is up, or as it is going down. Even if we don’t, it is a good idea to have a flash light, just in case.

Trail Map – It’s a good idea to have a detailed map of the general area that you’re hiking. A topo map is helpful, also.

A Good Old Compass – If you don’t know your way around the woods, or how to tell where you are planted geographically, it’s a good idea to carry a compass. You can use this in combination with your map to catch your bearings, should you for any reason become separated from the group.

First Aid – Some basic first aid supplies are a good idea. Antibiotic ointment, gause, etc. What if the tree jumps out and scratches you! Ha!

Sunscreen – Stay back, skin cancer! Not that you always need sunscreen in WA, but when you are climbing the mountain, you get thousands of feet closer to that big burning object, and you may want to protect yourself.

Cellphone or Smart phone – Cell service is not everywhere, but a cellphone really can be a life saver if you are lost, even if it means hiking elsewhere to get service. Could be a good thing to keep on you – but remember, no calls on your hike. That’s distracting, and we must be ultra-focused.

Global Positioning System, or GPS – This wouldn’t be to replace a good old compass and map, however, they can really make life easier!

Remember, these are just suggestions. What would you suggest bringing?


Paresthesia-Leg & Foot Numbness

Paresthesia is the condition commonly known as “pins and needles,” where part of the body- typically a foot or hand – begins to tingle and becomes numb, or “falls asleep.” Paresthesia can occur either on a temporary or on a chronic basis. In most cases, paresthesia is a short-term condition caused by putting pressure on a nerve, and the tingling sensation will diminish within several minutes.

When someone experiences paresthesia on a regular basis it could indicate a more substantial problem within the body. Frequent cases of paresthesiacan be symptoms that neurons in the brain are malfunctioning, and are not properly relaying signals to the brain. In such cases, the neural problems may be related to malnutrition, diabetes , a thyroid condition, or another medical problem.

In addition to problems with neuron function, chronic cases of paresthesiacan also be associated with damage to the nerves themselves. Some likely causes of nerve damage are Lyme Disease or Multiple Sclerosis; a brain tumor can also have similar effects. For people who are experiencing a “pins and needles” sensation on a frequent basis, it is important to see a doctor who can test for any of the serious conditions that may cause paresthesia.

Treatment for paresthesia depends on the underlying cause of the problem. In ordinary cases of the temporary “pins and needles,” the sensation can generally be relieved by vigorous movement of the affected limb. Generally, as soon as pressure on the nerve is relieved, the problem will begin to go away on its own. When the paresthesia is related to a more severe condition, the sensation of numbness will often be cured with the treatment for the condition. Patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis frequently take prescribed drugs that alleviate many of their symptoms, including paresthesia.

Some forms of alternative therapy may also help get rid of paresthesia. For example, as paresthesia is often related to a vitamin deficiency, it may be helpful to take vitamin supplements, as recommended by a physician. Massage and acupunture have also been known to help treat paresthesia.

Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex

We have just recently received a new supplement from Barleans, Olive Leaf Complex the world’s freshest Olive Leaf Complex manufactured. This health secret originally was developed in Australia, but is now available right here in our center courtesy of Barleans.

Medicinal use of olive leaves dates back to ancient Egypt and is referenced by Hippocrates and now in modern medical texts. Olive leaves contain powerful antioxidants and natural plant actives that are highly anti-microbial. Olive leaf is widely used around the world as a health tonic and all-purpose powerful antioxidant, to promote general health, and in the event of colds, flu or infection. Barlean’s olive leaves are fresh-picked at sunrise, immediately fresh pressed and bottled to capture full-spectrum, nutritional potency.


Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex made from?

100% fresh, live olive leaves, pressed within minutes of being picked.

  • What does “full-spectrum” mean?

“Full-spectrum” refers to foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (often referred to as “whole foods”) and thus still posses their inherent range of nutrients. The Olive Leaf Complex is harvested, fresh pressed and stored in such a way that ensures the vital, active ingredients in the olive leaves are kept “alive” to increase maximum effectiveness.

  • Why might I take Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex?

Used traditionally to help support a healthy immune system in the event of colds and flu, many people take it during the winter months. Research and testimonials have also demonstrated its effectiveness in helping to support a healthy cardiovascular system.

  • Does it need refridgeration after opening?

No. However, it should be kept in a cool place out of direct sunlight to protect its active ingredients.

  • Can it be taken at the same time as my other medications?

There are no known cases where taking the Olive Leaf Complex with medications has had a negative side effect. However, it is always best to check with your health practitioner to be safe.

  • What makes Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex better than other olive leaf products on the market?

The complex is made directly from fresh-picked olive leaves, extracted on site and processed within minutes of being picked. There is no storage, drying, or damage to the leaves so all the key compounds are saved just as nature intended. The grove from which the source of Olive Leaves is planted with scientifically-selected olive tree varieties that offer the maximum therapeutic activity. All harvesting, processing and bottling is done on site in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified facilities.


Noni Juice-17,998 Total Antioxidant Capacity

Mangosteen Juice-56,994 Total Antioxidant Capacity

Acai&Guarana Juice-59,994 Total Antioxidant Capacity

Goji Juice-81,000 Total Antioxidant Capacity

Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex-501,184 Total Antioxidant Capacity

*Courtesy of Barleans Website and Barleans Olive Leaf Complex brochure.*

**Try These New Milk Options: Hemp & Goat**

Though its name might be a bit misleading, organic hemp milk is a perfectly legal, not to mention healthy, alternative for vegetarians or non vegetarians. Produced from the seeds of the hemp plant, this milk has only begun to be sold in the United States within the past few years.
One concern that people have about organic hemp milk is that it might contain some of the chemical THC (
tetrahydrocannabinol), which is found in marijuana. Rest assured that this ingredient is not present or associated with hemp milk.
Another concern is that the hemp seeds must be imported since it’s currently not legal to grow the hemp plant in the US. Some hemp milk producers have to rely on obtaining hemp seeds from farmers in Canada or Europe, where the growth of hemp plants for oil or milk is perfectly legal.
Health Benefits of Organic Hemp Milk
Organic hemp milk is also a great alternative to toxic cow’s milk and those who cannot consume dairy because of dietary issues.
One 8-Ounce glass contains the following healthy nutrients:

900mg Omega-3 Fatty Acid 
2800mg Omega-6 Fatty Acid 
All 10 Essential Amino Acids 
4 grams of Digestible Protein 
46% of RDA of Calcium 
0% Cholesterol 
Vitamin A 
Vitamin E 
Vitamin B12 
Folic Acid 
Vitamin D 
And more… 

How To Make Your Own Organic Hemp Milk!
1 cup hemp seeds (shelled)
5-6 cups of purified water
Natural Sweetener, such as Agave Nectar or Raw Honey

Recipe Makes: 6-7 cups

Combine the water and the Shelled Hemp Seeds in a blender. Use more water to achieve a skim milk consistency and less water to produce a heavier cream consistency of the milk.
Turn blender on high for 2-3 minutes, or until you reach your desired consistency. (I use the VitaMix™ brand blender)
After blending you can sweeten the milk by adding: Organic Agave Nectar, 
Organic raw honey, or Organic Vanilla. Blend again to mix sweetener. You can drink it thick or strain it through cheese cloth to remove the large seed particles. The seed pulp can then be used as an excellent body scrub, facial mask or compost.
It will stay fresh for 3 days in the refrigerator in a sealed glass container (I use a mason jar). Shake well before each use.
Parents: This is a very easy way to supplement a good source of organic protein, Omega-6 & Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids in your child’s diet.
Organic shelled hemp seeds can be purchased online. (I personally use
Other Things You Need To Know About Organic Hemp Milk
It can be purchased in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors, and the boxes they are packaged in do not have to be refrigerated until after you open them. There are now multiple stores selling multiple brands, so if you are a consumer who prefers to stick to organic products, you should not have too much difficulty finding them.
Plain organic hemp milk contains no sugar, no cholesterol, and is free of soy and gluten. For many people, these factors make it an obvious choice for an abundant source of vital nutrients. The essential fatty acids, vitamins & nutrients that are contained in organic hemp milk provide a wide variety of health benefits.
The Declaration of Independence was first drafted on hemp paper.¹
Hemp Milk Benefits Include:
Strengthened Immune System 
Clear, Healthy Skin, Hair & Nails 
Strong, Healthy Heart 
Increased Mental Capacity 

NOTE: As with anything, you should always conduct a sufficient amount of research on any products that you are considering trying. There are actually quite a few different brands available on the market, and not all of them are made with organic ingredients. Try to get in the habit of reading product labels on everything, not just food and beverage items. When you regularly read ingredients of the things you and your family are using or consuming, you will develop a greater understanding of labeling practices and what to look for to be safe.
Organic hemp milk may very well be the best alternative for those of you who either do not like cow’s milk, suffer from lactose intolerance, or are vegetarians. While the taste of it may be something that you have to adjust to, you might just find that you actually prefer it to any of the other milk products you have tried. 



What does goat’s milk give you that cow’s milk doesn’t? In many parts of the world, goat’s milk is preferred to cow’s milk. Even in the United States, the goat is gaining popularity. Goats eat less and occupy less grazing space than cows, and in some families the backyard goat supplies milk for family needs. Goat’s milk is believed to be more easily digestible and less allergenic than cow’s milk. Does it deserve this reputation? Let’s disassemble goat’s milk, nutrient-by-nutrient, to see how it compares with cow’s milk.

Different fat. Goat’s milk contains around ten grams of fat per eight ounces compared to 8 to 9 grams in whole cow’s milk, and it’s much easier to find lowfat and non-fat varieties of cow’s milk than it is to purchase lowfat goat’s milk. Unlike cow’s milk, goat’s milk does not contain agglutinin. As a result, the fat globules in goat’s milk do not cluster together, making them easier to digest. Like cow’s milk, goat’s milk is low in essential fatty acids, because goats also have EFA-destroying bacteria in their ruminant stomachs. Yet, goat milk is reported to contain more of the essential fatty acids linoleic and arachnodonic acids, in addition to a higher proportion of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. These are easier for intestinal enzymes to digest.

Different protein. Goat milk protein forms a softer curd (the term given to the protein clumps that are formed by the action of your stomach acid on the protein), which makes the protein more easily and rapidly digestible. Theoretically, this more rapid transit through the stomach could be an advantage to infants and children who regurgitate cow’s milk easily. Goat’s milk may also have advantages when it comes to allergies. Goat’s milk contains only trace amounts of an allergenic casein protein, alpha-S1, found in cow’s milk. Goat’s milk casein is more similar to human milk, yet cow’s milk and goat’s milk contain similar levels of the other allergenic protein, beta lactoglobulin. Scientific studies have not found a decreased incidence of allergy with goat’s milk, but here is another situation where mothers’ observations and scientific studies are at odds with one another. Some mothers are certain that their child tolerates goat’s milk better than cow’s milk, and mothers are more sensitive to children’s reactions than scientific studies.

Less lactose. Goat’s milk contains slightly lower levels of lactose (4.1 percent versus 4.7 percent in cow’s milk), which may be a small advantage in lactose-intolerant persons.

Different minerals. Although the mineral content of goat’s milk and cow’s milk is generally similar, goat’s milk contains 13 percent more calcium, 25 percent more vitamin B-6, 47 percent more vitamin A, 134 percent more potassium, and three times more niacin. It is also four times higher in copper. Goat’s milk also contains 27 percent more of the antioxidant selenium than cow’s milk. Cow’s milk contains five times as much vitamin B-12 as goat’s milk and ten times as much folic acid (12 mcg. in cow’s milk versus 1 mcg. for goat’s milk per eight ounces with an RDA of 75-100 mcg. for children). The fact that goat’s milk contains less than ten percent of the amount of folic acid contained in cow’s milk means that it must be supplemented with folic acid in order to be adequate as a formula or milk substitute for infants and toddlers, and popular brands of goat’s milk may advertise “supplemented with folic acid” on the carton.


Parents of babies allergic to cow’s milk and other commercial formulas often ask if it’s safe to use goat’s milk as an alternative. In theory, goat’s milk is less allergenic and more easily digestible than cow’s milk, but it should not be used as a substitute for infant formula. Like cow’s milk, it can cause intestinal irritation and anemia. If your baby under one year of age is allergic to cow’s milk-based formulas, try either a soy-based formula or a hypoallergenic formula. If your baby can’t tolerate either soy or hypoallergenic formulas, in consultation with your doctor and/or a pediatric nutritionist click here for goat’s milk formula recipe.

This formula has stood the test of time. One batch contains 715 calories and nineteen calories per ounce, which is essentially the same as cow’s milk formulas. This is sufficient for an infant six to twelve months. A baby on goat’s milk formula should also receive a multi-vitamin with iron supplement prescribed by her doctor. In infants over one year of age, goat’s milk can be readily used instead of cow’s milk. (Be sure to buy goat’s milk that is certified free of antiobiotics and bovine growth hormone (BGH). (For more information about goat’s milk call 1-800-891-GOAT)

March Blogs

41 Sports isn’t just a fitness boot camp. We give our clients a life changing experience; this stands for everything we work on. The key to completing your goals is to keep a consistent and healthy diet. We have all the supplies and nutrition you need to fulfill your goals. Every Saturday we go on amazing trail runs; this will increase your stamina and get that fat off quick. Once we reach the end of the trail; we provide our clients fresh cut oranges. Anthony finds it very important to supply your body with Vitamin C; so he will always have those fresh oranges on Saturdays! Nutrition is a major factor in a healthy and happy life, and if you have any questions; please feel free to call us at 1-360-393-4348. We’re here to see you at the top!
Right in Nature’s backyard is this challenging trail that 41 Sports has recently conquered. Not too extreme, but just enough to give you a good night’s sleep. We meet at the Fairhaven Park parking lot and then carpool to the location. This fun run starts off at the Inner-Urban trail and later turns into The Hemlock Trail. As normal as any other trail, it seems to be a uphill switchback trail. Once you reach the last level; it becomes a challenging course. The weather is phenomenal and the intensity is breath-taking. When our awesome group ran it, we witnessed a snowstorm when we reached the top. The thought of this experience is nothing compared to being there. Anthony wanted to take the group all the way; but he spotted a Bobcat which was not safe for some of our clients. Safety is something we are really cautious about in this boot camp. Anthony promises to take the group all the way next Saturday, March 14th when he will be prepared for the animal life. If you would like to come join us on March 14th; please feel free to call 1-360-393-4348.
41 Sports Trail Safety Policy
At 41 Sports, we try to keep everything we do as safe possible. It is extremely important for our clients to be in their healthiest state in order to attend our workout sessions. Anthony Mcclanahan always tells his clients that being able to Focus is safer than anything. If you are mentally prepared and focused on your task, the chances of injury are very slim. Knowing about your surroundings, being aware of everything is important. It is also very important to let your trainer know if you are fatigued. Nobody is perfect, and every person has different limits. So if you feel you can’t go longer or your body is hurting in an abnormal manner; please tell your trainer during that present time.
41 Sports has rules about safety; it is necessary for you to follow these rules. Or it could cause an injury.


1. Must have some type of communication device on the run. (cell phone, walkie talkie, etc..)

2. Always prepare for the unexpected, dress warm and comfortable.

3. A backpack is essential; including food and drinks.

4. Minimum of 3 helpful utilities. (compass, map, first aid kit, etc..)

5. Focus and Awareness is the key for a safe experience; be mature.

41 Sports wants you to have a good time and meet your goals. In order to do that, these rules are mandatory.


Headaches Basics



According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines. About 20% of children and adolescents also have significant headaches.

What Types of Headaches Are There?

There are several types of headaches – 150 diagnostic headache categories have been established!

Below is a list of the most common types of headaches.

Tension headaches: Also called chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches, tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults and adolescents. These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time.

Migraines: The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although they are related to blood vessel contractions and other changes in the brain as well as inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days and usually occur 1 to 4 times per month. Migraines are associated with symptoms such as light sensitivity; noise or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain. When a child is having a migraine they often look pale, feel dizzy, have blurred vision, fever, stomach upset, in addition to having the above listed symptoms.

A small percentage of pediatric migraines include recurrent (cyclic) gastrointestinal symptoms, in which vomiting is most common. Cyclic vomiting means that the symptoms occur on a regular basis — about once a month. These types of migraines are sometimes called abdominal migraines.

Mixed headache syndrome: Also called transformed migraines, this is a combination of migraine and tension headaches. Both adults and children experience this type of headache.

Cluster headaches: The least common, although the most severe, type of primary headache, the pain of a cluster headache is intense and may be described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. The pain is so severe that most cluster headache sufferers cannot sit still and will often pace during an attack. The pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides. The term “cluster headache” refers to headaches that have a characteristic grouping of attacks. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into “remission”) for months or years, only to recur.

Sinus headaches: Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining and usually occurs with other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling


Headaches Basics


What Types of Headaches Are There? continued…

Acute headaches: Seen in children, these are headaches that occur suddenly and for the first time and have symptoms that subside after a relatively short period of time. Acute headaches most commonly result in a visit to the pediatrician’s office and/or the emergency room. If there are no neurological signs or symptoms, the most common cause for acute headaches in children and adolescents is a respiratory or sinus infection.


Hormone headaches: Headaches in women are often associated with changing hormone levels that occur during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Chemically induced hormone changes, such as with birth control pills, also trigger headaches in some women.

Chronic progressive headaches: Also called traction or inflammatory headaches, chronic progressive headaches get worse and happen more often over time. These are the least common type of headache, accounting for less than 5% of all headaches in adults and less than 2% of all headaches in kids. Chronic progressive headaches may be the result of an illness or disorder of the brain or skull.

Are Headaches Hereditary?

Yes, headaches, especially migraines, have a tendency to run in families. Most children and adolescents (90%) who have migraines have other family members with migraines. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance that the child will also develop migraines. If only one parent has a history of migraines, the risk drops to 25%-50%.

What Causes Headaches?

Headache pain results from signals interacting between the brain, blood vessels, and surrounding nerves. During a headache, specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles are activated and send pain signals to the brain. It’s not clear, however, why these signals are activated in the first place.

There is a migraine “pain center” or generator in the mid-brain area. A migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels, causing constriction, followed by the dilation of these vessels and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other inflammatory substances that cause the pulsation to be painful. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical essential for certain body processes.

Headaches that occur suddenly (acute-onset) are usually due to an illness, infection, cold or fever. Other conditions that can cause an acute headache include sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), pharyngitis (inflammation or infection of the throat) or otitis (ear infection or inflammation).

In some cases, the headaches may be the result of a blow to the head (trauma) or rarely a sign of a more serious medical condition.

Common causes of tension headaches or chronic non progressive headaches include emotional stress related to family and friends, work or school; alcohol use; skipping meals; changes in sleep patterns; excessive medication use; tension and depression. Other causes of tension headaches include eyestrain and neck or back strain due to poor posture.

Headaches can also be triggered by specific environmental factors that are shared in a family’s household, such as exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke strong odors from household chemicals or perfumes, exposure to certain allergens or eating certain foods. Stress, pollution, noise, lighting and weather changes are other environmental factors that can trigger headaches for some people.

Too much physical activity can also trigger a migraine in both adults and children.

Be sure to consult a doctor to find out what is causing your headaches.


Headaches Basics


Do Children Outgrow Headaches?

Headaches may improve as children gets older. The headaches may disappear and then return later in life. By junior high school, many boys who have migraines outgrow them, but in girls, migraine frequency increases because of hormone changes. Migraines in adolescent girls are three times more likely to occur than in boys.

How Are Headaches Evaluated and Diagnosed?

The good news for headache sufferers is that once a correct headache diagnosis is made, an effective treatment plan can be started.

If you have headache symptoms, the first step is to go to your family doctor. He or she will perform a complete physical examination and a headache evaluation. During the headache evaluation, your headache history and description of the headaches will be evaluated. You will be asked to describe your headache symptoms and characteristics as completely as possible.

A headache evaluation may include a CT scan or MRI if a structural disorder of the central nervous system is suspected. Both of these tests produce cross-sectional images of the brain that can reveal abnormal areas or problems. Skull X-rays are not helpful. An EEG (electroencephalogram) is also unnecessary unless you have experienced a loss of consciousness with a headache.

If your headache symptoms become worse or become more frequent despite treatment, ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist. Your family doctor should be able to provide the names of headache specialists. If you need more information, contact one of the organizations in the resource list for a list of member doctors in your state.

How Are Headaches Treated?

Your doctor may recommend different types of treatment to try or he or she may recommend further testing, or refer you to a headache specialist. You should establish a reasonable time frame with your family doctor to evaluate your headache symptoms.

The proper treatment will depend on several factors, including the type and frequency of the headache and its cause. Not all headaches require medical attention. Treatment may include education, counseling, stress management, biofeedback and medications. The treatment prescribed for you will be tailored to meet your specific needs.

What Happens After I Start Treatment?

When your doctor starts a treatment program, keep track of the results and how the treatment program is working. Keep your scheduled follow-up appointments so your doctor can monitor your progress and make changes in the treatment program as needed.

Reviewed by Department of Neurology, Department of Pediatric Neurology, The Cleveland Clinic.