According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 45 million Americans suffer from recurring headaches. Not all headaches are alike, but they all share one thing in common – pain. During a headache, nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles are triggered, sending pain to the brain. Of the more than 50 different categories of headaches, they are broken down into two major types: Primary Headaches and Secondary Headaches.
Secondary headaches are caused by contributing medical conditions such as a sinus infection, neck injury, stroke, TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction), glaucoma, brain tumors, hypertension or a head injury. Primary headaches, on the other hand, are the most frequent kind of headache, with tension headaches accounting for about 90 percent of them.
Tension headaches are characterized by muscle contractions, which cause mild to moderate pain that comes and goes over a prolonged period of time. In a migraine headache, the pain can be moderate to severe and is often described as having a throbbing or pounding sensation. They can last from four hours to several days. Symptoms include sensitivity to light, noise or odors, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach upset or abdominal pain. Sinus headaches, on the other hand, are distinguished by a deep constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose and are usually associated with other symptoms such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever or facial swelling.
Everyone’s headache is different, with different triggers. For example, some women experience an increase in headaches just before and during their menstrual cycle. An accumulation of toxins in the body, constipation, second-hand smoke, household chemicals, perfumes, pollution, noise, weather changes, food allergies or sleep disorders can also bring one on. Sometimes eating ice cream or other cold foods can trigger a headache, as well.
With such a variety of causes no one remedy will work for everyone. However, with a little detective work, you can find the one that is right for you.
Recommendations for wellness
- Reduce your stress. Exercise, meditate, do yoga or take a hot Epsom salt bath to relax your body, mind and spirit.
- Hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques and energy work, including hands-on-healing or therapeutic touch can also significantly reduce the intensity and duration of your headache.
- Apply an ice pack to the painful areas of your head or try placing it on your forehead, temples or on the back of your neck.
- Put a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil on your temples or nape of your neck. Used topically they may be helpful in reducing tension headaches.
- Get a massage or have someone rub your back and neck to help reduce muscle tension.
- Go see your chiropractor, for your headache may be caused by a structural issue of the spine.
- Avoid smoke, perfume, outdoor (and indoor) pollution that may trigger a headache.
- Drink plenty of water to keep the body flushed and hydrated.
- Eat a diet filled with fruits and vegetables. Eliminate preprocessed, pre-packaged foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and chemicals.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, products that contain aspartame (NutraSweet) and monosodium glutamate, all of which can trigger headaches.
- Try an elimination diet to rule out any food sensitivities.
- If constipation is a contributing factor, take steps to cleanse the colon and eliminate toxins from the body.
- Do a liver cleanse to detoxify the body. Use herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion or burdock root or try a liver cleansing program such as Nature’s Sunshine’s Tao He Cleanse.
- Nature’s first aspirin, white willow bark can be used to help ease the pain associated with inflammatory conditions including headaches.
- Supplementation with 5-HTP (L-5-hydroxytryptophan) has been shown to help reduce the number of headaches experienced by increasing serotonin levels.
- Capsicum, gingko biloba and gotu kola can improve circulation and help with headaches.
- Studies have shown that supplementation with Omega-3 or flax seed oil can reduce symptoms of frequent headaches and help regulate the inflammatory response.
- Take magnesium daily. Research indicates that individuals who suffer from headaches often have low levels of magnesium in the body. It has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of a headache.