June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. Almost everyone has had a headache or two in their life. It is the most common type of pain. I am one of the fortunate ones; I have had maybe two headaches in my entire life. I am the exception. Some people have chronic-type headaches that can last 60-90 days. They wake up every day with a headache. Tension headaches, often related to emotional issues such as stress, worry, nervousness, depression or anxiety, are the most common type of headache.
According to WebMD, up to 80% of adults in the U.S. occasionally get tension headaches and about 3% experience them daily. Most people with episodic tension headaches have them no more than once or twice a month, but they can happen more often. These headaches result from tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. Consider non-drug approaches for relief such as massage, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal teas or essential oils. Tension headaches are often a result of working too much, sleep deprivation, missing meals, or a misuse of alcohol. Don’t take a drug for a headache if you know it’s from not eating – eat instead! If your headache is from not sleeping, turn off the computer and television early so you can relax and prepare for sleep.
Sinus headaches are also a common type of headache, especially during allergy season. Again, go first to non-drug therapy without the side effects of many anti-histamines and pain killers. Drink more water, use a humidifier (it is often helpful to add Eucalyptus oil), or utilize a saltwater nasal spray or nasal flush. Take homeopathy formulated for congested or infected sinuses, for sinus headaches or to address seasonal allergies. Enlist a massage therapist who is trained in massage techniques which are used to stimulate sinus drainage and relieve the pressure. The American Migraine Foundation estimates that more than 36 million Americans suffer from the dreaded migraine headache. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and can last for 3 hours or 3 days, and sometimes longer. The jury is out on the exact cause of migraines but there seems to be vascular, nerve and hereditary components.
Regardless of the cause, there are believed to be predisposing factors and triggers to bring on a migraine. Stress is one of the most common triggers. Stress causes your brain to release chemicals that can cause blood vessel changes which can lead to a migraine. According to PubMed, some foods and drinks, such as aged cheese, alcohol and food additives like nitrates (in pepperoni, hot dogs, lunch-meats) and monosodium glutamate (MSG) may be responsible for up to 30% of migraines.
Changes in weather, changes in hormonal levels – such as during menses, and changes in eating patterns – such as skipping meals or consuming too much caffeine or abruptly decreasing the amount of caffeine, can also bring on a migraine. Changes to your sleep pattern and excess fatigue can also trigger migraines.
I’m not saying that you would never find the need for toxic, chemical drugs to treat or prevent severe headaches, but as you see, many causes and triggers can be addressed through lifestyle changes. I would encourage those suffering from headaches, whether it is a tension, sinus or migraine headache to try natural approaches first. Many lifestyle changes are free; some actually save you money. Try eliminating caffeine, alcohol and processed foods full of chemical food additives. See my April eMetro Times article, The Six-Letter, Four-Letter Word of Today, on steps to take to relieve stress.
In the natural healthcare world, toxins are believed to be a major contributor to headaches. I once gave a homeopathic detoxification formula to a customer, not knowing she had been suffering from daily headaches for over two years. When I saw her a couple of months later, she shared that after beginning the daily dose of the detoxifier remedy, she had not had another headache. Massage, acupuncture, colonics and supplements also are known to offer relief from all types of headaches. I have known people who had struggled with migraines for years, relieved with chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and/or homeopathy. Most headaches do not require the attention of a health professional. However, there are times to seek help. Consult a health care provider if you have sudden, severe headaches or if you have a headache after a blow to your head. If your headache is accompanied by a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, or pain in the eye or ear, enlist the help of a professional.
Marge Roberts, BSN MSHP DAHom
CEO, Newton Homeopathics; President, American Academy of Clinical Homeopathy