One of the more commonly checked boxes on our new patient inventory is the one entitled “Headaches.” In fact, a great majority list headaches as a secondary or even tertiary complaint, considering even regular headaches to be “normal” or at the very least something they’ve become accustomed to. The truth is that anytime your body presents with pain, it should be an indicator to us that something isn’t working properly. A common adage in the natural health care world is that of a fire alarm going off; you wouldn’t just take the batteries out, right? You’d investigate the cause. Similarly, you shouldn’t just cover up your headache (or other symptoms) with aspirin or other over the counter medications, you should look into why they are happening.
While we’ve all had headaches at some point, it’s important to note the different types of headaches. Sinus headaches generally present as pressure behind the forehead or cheekbones. Tension headaches feel like a band around the head, and migraines are usually one sided, with associated nausea and visual disturbances. All of these may have a cervicogenic component, meaning coming from the neck.
One of my first homework assignments for new patients is on increasing self-awareness. Becoming more in tune not only how you feel at certain times, but when performing certain motions, after eating particular foods, or just with assuming normal, “everyday” postures like driving, sleeping, or sitting at your desk. Oftentimes, they find direct correlations between foods or postures and their symptoms. (Women: take particular note if your headaches are cyclical, they may have a hormonal component.)
1). FOOD SENSITIVITIES & HEADACHES
That’s a big part of this first tip: many headaches can be produced by certain food sensitivities. I’m constantly amazed by the disconnect people have with the food they eat and how they feel. Foods (and additives, pesticides, etc.) can make us feel vibrant or miserable, energized or lethargic. They can also produce pain in the body. Migraines can be triggered by foods high in sulfites and histamines such as chocolate, cheese, processed meats and wine, because they cause blood vessels to dilate. Common food allergens like dairy, wheat, shellfish and nuts can also contribute to headaches. Artificial sweeteners and food additives like aspartame and MSG should be avoided as they can increase headache frequency. Caffeine and refined sugars fall into this category as well.
The easiest place to start is by staying properly hydrated; headaches can be the first sign of dehydration or hypoglycemia. Make sure you are staying properly hydrated throughout the day and eating regular meals.
2.) HERBS & HEADACHES
While examining the root cause of headaches generally takes time, there are natural options to alleviate headaches while they are occurring. Feverfew, magnesium, and riboflavin can all help reduce the intensity and duration of headaches. I have had great success with using Saligesic by Standard Process , which contains plants with aspirin-like chemicals that have anti-inflammatory effects without the stomach irritation of actual aspirin. Also helpful is Pain-Eze by Rainbow Light. Both supplements are all natural and without the unwanted side effects of typical over the counter anti-inflammatories.
3.) CHIROPRACTIC, PHYSICAL MEDICINE & HEADACHES
I cannot overstate how effective chiropractic care can be for headaches. Our vertebral artery supplies one third of the blood to our brain and runs through the cervical vertebrae (the bones in your neck). If there is any kind of rotation or misalignment in these bones, this will inhibit bloodflow to the brain and all the tiny, pain-producing muscles of the upper neck. Even with migraines in women, which typically have a hormonal component, chiropractic adjustments can give reductions in the length or intensity of the migraine. Patients often feel immediate relief.
As with many musculoskeletal complaints, massage therapy can accelerate progress and complement chiropractic care. Many people hold their stress in the necks and shoulders, and computer and desk jobs only exacerbate this problem. Relaxing those muscles takes pressure off the neck and can relieve headaches in this way.
In the meantime, cold packs are one of the best home remedies for headaches. Place the pack over the affected area and keep it there for about ten minutes. This will help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain (and no side effects here)!
The biggest tip here is to pay attention to your body, and don’t just ignore or cover up the discomfort. Pain is our body’s way of communicating with us, so listen up!
For more information about anything you’ve read here, or to schedule with Dr. Doyle, or our massage therapists Coby, Suzi, or Paulette, please feel free to call us at 843-416-8218 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are never too busy to help you or your loved ones.