- The Simple Story of Headaches
- Types of Headaches
- Self-care ~ what you can do to treat your pain
- Professional Treatment
The Simple Story of Headaches
The most common causes of headaches are: stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of stretching, and food allergies. So, the simple answers are to find better ways to work with your stress, get better sleep, get some exercise, stretch daily, and remove the foods that you are allergic to from your diet.
If you do not have a lot of time to dedicate at the moment to getting rid of your head pain, try removing all dairy products, gluten containing foods, sugars, colorings and additives from your diet for one week and see how you feel. And drink a bit more water.
Caution: don't live with recurrent or intense headaches. See a knowledgeable chiropractic physician or medical doctor and learn what is causing your pain. Beware of any kind of doctor that would treat you without knowing the cause of your pain.
Types of Headaches
Headache, as with most conditions, is divided into two classifications, acute and chronic, which are based on how long ago the pain began, how it began, and its intensity. Chronic conditions are those that continue or recur over an extended period, often come on gradually, or may be the result of an incompletely healed injury. Acute conditions are those that begin or worsen suddenly, and are often caused by injury, infection, allergy, or abrupt change in a chronic degenerative process like arthritis.
According to the Mayo Clinic (12/4/09) "A tension headache — or tension-type headache, as it's medically known — is the most common type of headache, and yet its causes aren't well understood. A tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain that many people describe as feeling as if there's a tight band around their head. It may feel as though muscle contractions are responsible for your head pain, but experts don't think that's the cause, which is why this type of headache is generally referred to as a tension-type headache. Fortunately, effective treatments for tension headaches are available. Managing a tension headache is often a balance between fostering healthy habits, finding effective nondrug treatments and using medications appropriately."
I disagree with Mayo on 2 important points. While causes of tension headaches may not be well understood by most doctors, I find that the majority of tension headaches are easily understood and treated. Mayo states that experts don't think that muscle contraction is responsible for tension headache. In clinical practice, it is quite obvious that muscle contraction IS a major causative factor in tension headache. WEbMD.com sides with me; "These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time." (12/4/09)
The Mayo Clinc (12/4/09) tells us that "migraines are chronic headaches that can cause significant pain for hours or even days. Symptoms can be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down. Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms or signs (auras), such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg. A migraine is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Although there's no cure, medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. If treatment hasn't worked for you in the past, it's worth talking to your doctor about trying a different migraine medication. The right medicines combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes may make a tremendous difference."
Mayo's belief that migraine can not be cured, is simply wrong. Though it is often not easy to completely stop (cure) migraines, many migraines are primarily allergically induced and when the offending allergens are removed, that headache stops.
As the name indicates, these headaches are caused by injury. It is important to understand that it is common that pain from an injury goes away, but the injured part of the body may not regain its normal function. Later, seemingly unprovoked, the pain returns. This often happens with neck injuries that are not appropriately treated by a skilled chiropractic physician or other knowledgeable practitioner.
"A cluster headache is one of the most painful types of headache. A striking feature of cluster headache is that the attacks occur in cyclical patterns, or clusters — which gives the condition its name." (Mayo Clinic 12/4/09) Mayo goes on to tell us that they don't know what causes cluster headaches, and that treatments include oxygen therapy, drugs, and rarely surgery. I think we can do better.
Sinus headaches occur around the forehead and eyes and may be accompanied by obvious signs of sinus involvement such as congestion or pressure. These headaches often involve gluten and/or dairy sensitivities.
The most common causes of headaches are: stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of stretching, arthritis in the neck, and food allergies. Additional factors can be poor digestive health and nutrient deficiencies.
Self-care ~ what you can do to treat your pain
1) Begin taking magnesium as directed on this page
2) Avoid all dairy products and gluten until your pain is gone
3) Apply ice or heat to your neck and base of skull for 10-15 minutes then apply the other and then give it a rest for 30 minutes. (Heat may be inappropriate within 24-48 hours of injury.) If either ice or heat seem to aggravate your condition, don't use them, and consult your health care practitioner.
4) Use over-the-counter medications as needed.
5) Baths with epsom salts are often very effective in the treatment of a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions, including neck pain, a common cause of headache. I recommend using an entire half-gallon of salts in a warm to hot bath. These magnesium salts can be purchased at drug stores and large grocery stores. They have been used with amazing results for generations.
Functional treatment of head pain by healthcare practitioners can be valuable, and in many cases, invaluable. A doctor of chiropractic (DC) can provide treatment through adjustment (manipulation) of the spine. Some DCs are trained to advise patients regarding non-musculoskeletal treatments such as dietary change, improvement of digestive function, and vitamin supplementation. Other practitioners that treat neck pain include; functional medicine practictioners, medical doctors, doctors of oriental medicine, homeopathists, herbalists, naturopaths, bodyworkers, physical therapists, and osteopaths.
Additional Information on Headache
Headache is not uncommon in children. In my experience adverse food reactions are the most common cause of childhood headache.
Finally, I offer three pieces of advice:
- take the time to find out what’s causing your head pain, and make the necessary changes to stop it.
- beware that chronic pain is an unquestionable sign of ongoing inflammation, that inflammation is destructive to tissues, and that unresolved, it is probable that your condition will deteriorate at an accelerated rate,
- recognize your head pain as an opportunity to learn about your body, and appreciate that the functional changes that you make will enhance the health and vitality of your entire being.