Say Goodbye to Headaches
|Say Goodbye to Headaches||Darrell Miller||06/13/05|
June 13, 2005 07:25 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Say Goodbye to Headaches
Say Goodbye to Headaches by Susan Weiner Energy Times, December 8, 1999
What's in a name? A headache by any other name hurts just as much. But categorizing your headache can be as overwhelming as finding an obscure breakfast cereal at the supermarket. Medical folks pigeonhole headaches as tension headaches, allergy headaches, morning headaches and sinus headaches, plus the organic, migraine, cluster, trauma, TMJ, eyestrain, rebound, exertion, hormonal and muscle tension varieties. You may also suffer the self-induced hangover and toxicity headaches.
Americans are no strangers to self-medication, and as a society we battle these headaches by consuming nearly 80 billion tablets of aspirin each year, about 20 million aspirins a day, according to Burton Goldberg, co-author of An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Headaches (Future Medicine Publishing). And while we drown ourselves in over-the-counter and powerful prescription products, our tolerance, just like a drug addict's, grows. So what begins as a twodose headache slowly evolves into three, four or five doses, until you realize that no dosage can make your headache go away.
Unless you're fond of medieval practices such as ritualistic healings and bloodletting, drugs seem the only answer to headache misery. But even modern medicine has been unable to solve headaches. Rather than a cure, medications provide only temporary relief, and even that isn't guaranteed. Additionally, over-reliance on medications can lead to chronic head pain. According to Goldberg, rebound headaches often result from the consumption and withdrawal of drugs.
Halt Your Headaches
Rather than strive to simply eliminate headache pain, why not identify the underlying cause and prevent the headache? Almost always, every type of headache results from a health or lifestyle-related activity. In an ideal world, the best approach would be to eliminate the tensions, stress, frustrations, anger, insufficient sleep, excessive drinking and poor diet that contribute to your headaches. For better or for worse, however, you can't always: a. quit your job; b. ask your spouse to leave; c. sit on the beach all day; or d. all of the above. But you can make appropriate lifestyle changes and learn to express suppressed feelings.
This approach, lifestyle modification, is a treatment program based on a Loma Linda University study, originally published in Medical Hypothesis and the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine and later explained in No More Headaches, No More Migraines: A Proven Approach to Preventing Headaches and Migraines by Zuzana Bic, DrPH and L. Francis Bic, PhD (Avery). The program, conducted on a group diagnosed with chronic migraines, dramatically decreased the frequency, intensity and duration of headaches in nine of 10 headache sufferers. Rather than demand radical life changes, the lifestyle modification program introduces gradual changes in three specific areas: nutrition, exercise and understanding stress. The study doesn't expect you to change your entire diet, join a gym and eliminate everything that triggers stress, but teaches techniques to make subtle lifestyle changes and reduce the impact of daily stress. These same techniques can also improve sleep patterns, a factor known to affect headaches. The lifestyle modification approach clarifies that while very few headaches directly result from existing acute conditions, recurring headaches often derive from a larger lifestyle factor. If these issues are ignored, the body's natural defense mechanisms may kick into overdrive and become exhausted, leaving you susceptible to other chronic diseases. By finding and eliminating the cause of your headaches, you may be saving yourself from other eventual illnesses.
Willing to make some lifestyle changes and step away from medications? Try these remedies, courtesy of Nature's Pharmacy by Lynn Paige Walker, PharmD and Ellen Hodgson Brown, JD (Prentice-Hall).
For simple headaches, start with relaxation and neck stretches. Or try rubbing your forehead with peppermint oil, a natural antispasmodic and diuretic shown in German research to be as effective as acetaminophen in easing tension headaches.
Never underestimate the old-fashioned ice pack to the forehead as an effective treatment that works by constricting the swollen blood vessels that cause your head to ache. If the ice pack isn't enough, try putting your arms in icy water up to your elbows to constrict additional blood vessels. But if it's a sinus headache you're fighting, take the opposite approach and try hot compresses.
The herbal, and original, form of aspirin is white willow bark. Used by Chinese practitioners 2,500 years ago, it contains salicin, nearly the same pain reliever found in aspirin. Other herbal aspirins include meadowsweet tea, just as effective as aspirin with few side effects. For migraines, Walker and Brown recommend feverfew and magnesium supplements, which reduce nerve excitability and migraine susceptibility. In fact, individuals with frequent headaches have been found to have low brain and tissue magnesium, says Julian Whitaker, MD, author of Julian Whitaker's Guide to Natural Healing (Prima). For all headaches, Goldberg suggests essential fatty acid supplementation with evening primrose oil (EPO), which improves circulation, helps regulate inflammation and relieves pain.
The Curse of the Migraine
Migraines, a debilitating headache distinguished by a throbbing pain, may be humanity's oldest malady. The name is derived from the word the Greek physician Galen used to describe the disorder in 200 A.D. Six-thousand-year-old Sumerian writings refer to the ravages of migraines, and prehistoric skeletons bear testimony to a crude form of trephination-holes chiseled in skulls to allow the escape of pain-creating demons, according to Lifetime Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies by Myra Cameron (Parker Publishing).
In the common migraine, throbbing pain develops gradually from distended veins around the brain and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. These miseries can be preceded by 15 to 90 minutes of an "aura," which includes visual disturbances, distorted perception, hallucinations, flashes of light and temporary loss of sight or hearing. In fact, skeptical historians attribute some of the religious visions of the Middle Ages to the visual effects of migraine aura, according to Cameron.
Snacking on high fiber foods between three light meals each day helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent migraines. And while some doctors summarily attribute migraines to diet, other experts attribute at least half of all migraines to food sensitivities. The most common edible villains are aged cheeses, yeast breads, chocolate, cured meats, citrus fruits, eggs, fermented foods, wheat, milk, milk products, alcoholic drinks and food additives, including nitrates and MSG.
Suggested daily supplements for migraine-susceptible individuals include a multivitamin, one capsule of B complex to help maintain normal vascular control, 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams in divided doses of vitamin C with bioflavonoids to assist the production of anti-stress hormones, and 500 to 1,000 milligrams of magnesium to reduce nerve excitability and pain. At the onset of a migraine, says Cameron, try homeopathic remedies, dilutions of natural substances from plants, minerals and animals. For throbbing pain, take natrum muriaticum according to package directions. Other homeopathic options to explore include iris versicolar, lac defloratum and sanguinaria.
Take Charge of Your Headaches
Headache management involves managing your life. Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Calmly discuss your feelings. Take a leisurely stroll at lunch. Walk your dog, or a neighbor's dog, after dinner. Keep a food diary. Sit and stand tall. Skip the fast food tonight. Join a yoga class. Take vitamins and supplements. Get a two-hour massage. Turn the television off earlier and sleep in a little later.
Taking the time to care may take effort, but it will soon become second nature. Invest in yourself. It's your most precious possession.