The War on Headaches

in Headache

 

Tick tock, tick tock, it feels as though a time bomb has been placed in your head and is about to explode. Desperately, you grab your head with your hands in a hopeful effort to relieve the pain, but to no avail. If you’re like most people, you hurry to the medicine cabinet and reach for a pill to combat that awful pain. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. It is estimated that over 45 million Americans are plagued by what is commonly known as a headache, a royal pain in the head. Accustomed to popping a pill for instant relief, four billion dollars is spent annually on over-the-counter drugs. Aspirin may or may not do the trick, but the important question is why do we get headaches and how can we prevent them?

 

Most headache pain is generated by either tense muscle contraction (as in tension headaches) or abnormal dilation of blood vessels (as in migraine and cluster headaches).

 

Tension headaches are the most common form and occur mostly in women. They are caused by emotional stress, anxiety or worry. Initially recognized by the tightening of muscles of the shoulder, neck and scalp, the onset is gradual. The pain is generalized all over the head or localized at the back of the head, upper neck or the front temporal region. The pain associated with this type of headache is dull, mild, aching or a non-painful tightness and pressure.

 

There are two types of tension headaches:

 

Acute Tension Headache—Usually triggered by a stressful situation, involving the fight or flight response, leading to abnormal contraction of neck, shoulder and scalp muscles.

This lasts during the period the person is stressed.

 

Chronic Tension Headache—These last day in and day out with no relief, Many people who get this type of headache also suffer from depression.

 

Surely everyone has encountered a migraine headache or knows somebody who has a relationship with one. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer form this form of debilitation. There appears to be a hereditary factor involved with migraines. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of sufferers have a family history of migraines. Attacks vary in length, from a few hours to a few days, or even longer.

 

 

There are two classes of migraines:

 

Classic Migraine—Ten to 30 minutes prior to the attack the person can experience light-headedness, see flashing lights or zigzag lines, or have blind spots, all of which are known as the “aura”. The aura is the reduction of blood flow to the brain and scalp due to the constriction of the blood vessels. Besides visual disturbances lack of balance, difficulty in speaking, numbness in the leg or arm, mood changes such as restlessness, irritability or depression may occur.

 

Common Migraine—Also known as the “sick headache”. It is characterized by a feeling of nausea, vomiting, irritability, or cold hands and feet.

 

A cluster headache is the actual explosion of the time bomb in your head. Like its cousin the migraine, it is caused by the changes in the vascular supply to the brain. The pain the sufferer experience is severe, stabbing, burning and unbearable. Cluster headaches are by far the most intense of all headaches. Most victims pace about anxiously and hit their heads in an effort to relieve the pain. The pain is on one side of the head, concentrated behind and over the eye region, and high in the nose area. Symptoms also include tearing of the eyes, runny or stuffy nose and excessive sweating. Cluster headaches are short lived and happen in groups. The duration time is a few minutes to 45 minutes. During a cluster attacking period, the headache will disappear and reappear later that day. One may experience up to several in a day.

 

Cluster headaches are five times more common in men than women. Some evidence suggests that smoking and alcohol can trigger an attack.

 

By process of elimination you may find that you have an allergic reaction to certain foods that can trigger these headaches.

 

Pain is your body’s way of crying out for help. Pay attention to the messages your body conveys to you. Respect and honor it. Seek the root of the problem, eliminate it from your life and heal thyself.

 

Suggested Foods To Avoid:

 

  1. MSG (monosodium glutamate) found in some Chinese food, soy sauce, and processed foods, such as luncheon meats and soup.
  2. Salt
  3. Red wine (contains tyramine)
  4. Chocolate (contains tyramine and phenylethylamine)
  5. Citrus fruits (contain octapamine)
  6. Hot dogs, luncheon and other cured meats that contain nitrates.
  7. Ice cream
  8. Anything fermented, pickled or marinated
  9. Pizza
  10. Aged or yellow cheeses (contain tyramine)

11. Onions

12. Nuts, peanut butter

13. Alcoholic beverages- limit yourself (contain phenylethylamine)

14. Wheat and corn products –gluten containing grains

15. Coffee and tea –limit yourself (creates a toxic effect on the nervous system)

16. Aspartame containing foods or beverages

17. Lima beans, fava beans, navy beans snow peas and broad beans

18. Avocado

19. Bananas

20. Sour cream

 

 

10 Natural Headache Remedies:

 

  1. Soak in a warm bath.  Warmth gets the blood flowing and loosens muscle contraction. Apply a steaming hot towel to the neck and shoulder area during the bath. Good for tension headaches.

   

  1. Acupressure.   Key points for pain reduction (see diagram): press the web between the thumb and forefinger. Press hard and hold for a couple of minutes, continuing for half an hour. Press between the big toe and second toe. Press the area of the neck under the bony ridges at the crown of the head

 

3.   Acupuncture

Try it! Vascular headaches are treatable by acupuncture and often the results

are dramatic.

 

 

4.  Relaxation and deep breathing   .  Most people breathe from their chest. Learn to breathe properly, from the

  diaphragm. Try yoga or Qi Gong

 

 

5.  Bio Feedback Therapy

  Has been found to be effective in migraine headaches.

 

6.  Exercise

  Stretch the neck, perform neck rolls.

 

7.  Diet (see foods to avoid list) 

 

8.  Herbal tea.

  Steep a teaspoon of feverfew tea in a cup of boiling water and drink it three  

  times a day.Good for migraines.

 

9.  Visualize warmth

In your hand during an aura period of a migraine.

 

10.  Consult a homeopath

Try Gelsemium, Belladonna or Pulsatilla

 

Author Box
Christina Marino has 9 articles online

Christina Marino is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. She is a California Board License Acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She holds a doctor’s degree from the Oregon College of Oriental medicine, and received her master’s from Emperor’s College of Traditional Chinese medicine in Santa Monica. There she earned top honors and received numerous accolades. She is also nationally certified by the NCCAOM as a Diplomat of Acupuncture. In addition to her specialty in Chinese medicine she is also a skilled classical homeopath & nutritionist.

 

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The War on Headaches

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This article was published on 2011/10/19