Who hasn’t had a headache? Headaches can have origins in the physical, mental or emotional sphere. They can be very debilitating and difficult to cure. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and result from muscular tension.
Migraines are also common and may be due to vascular changes in the brain. Some other common headache types are caffeine, cluster, hangover, menstrual and sinus headaches. In cases of prolonged or recurrent headaches, see your practitioner for an evaluation.
A variety of medical concerns can also lead to headaches for example aneurysm, arthritis, dehydration, food allergies, hypoglycemia, hypertension, trauma and TMJ disorders. The most important thing about treating a headache is to figure out its origin. Then natural remedies can be tailored to that cause. This article will focus on migraine and tension headaches.
Migraine headaches have one-sided throbbing pain. Nausea, vomiting, cold hands, dizziness and sensitivity to light and sound are often present. Some migraine sufferers experience auras that precede the headache. They can include visual disturbances, odour disturbances or numbness. Tension headaches have constant pain in one area or over the entire head. Trigger points in sore muscles can cause headache pain when they are stimulated.
There are a few conventional treatments for headaches that treat the symptoms, however these will not treat the underlying cause for the pain. Over time, painkillers like acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen can disrupt the brain’s capacity to effectively handle whatever might be causing the headache. For migraine sufferers, a drug called Imitrex can be useful in increasing serotonin levels to affect vascular tone. Imitrex has side effects such as hypertension, heart palpitations and tightness in the neck, jaw or chest. Sometimes migraines can be related to hormone fluctuations; in this case a health care professional may prescribe contraceptives.
To avoid headaches reduce your stress level, stretch to keep muscles loose, have regular chiropractic adjustments and get proper rest.
Practice deep breathing exercises to increase brain oxygenation. Keep a log of your headaches to see if things such as food, stress or your monthly cycle affect them.
Use a cold compress on the origin of the headache pain to constrict vessels. Apply warm compresses over muscles to decrease spasms, which may cause tension headaches.
Rub essential oils such as peppermint or lavender over the painful area (keep away from the eyes) to provide quick relief of headaches.
Dietary considerations for headaches include cleansing the body of toxins. If the body is overloaded it is less able to deal with stressors and headaches are more likely to occur. See the section on detoxification for more information on cleansing. Prevent dehydration by drinking 2L of filtered water daily. Avoid any foods you are sensitive to. Foods containing tyramine and phenylalanine are well known for their headache promoting properties.
Tyramine containing foods are alcohol, bananas, cheese, chicken, chocolate, citrus fruit, cold cuts, herring, onions, peanuts, pork, smoked fish, sour cream, vinegar, wine and fresh baked yeast products. Phenylalanine containing foods are aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and foods preserved with nitrates like hot dogs and luncheon meat. Eat a well balanced diet with ample protein to keep the blood sugar level.