It’s said that 45 million people in the United States are distressed by chronic headaches.
Just like a stomachache, the causes of headache vary. The top two common headaches are a tension-type and migraine.
Tension headaches are caused by muscular tension in your neck and shoulders, and sometimes in the jaw. The tension gradually spreads up to your head, producing a squeezing pain on both sides of the head and a heavy feeling.
Migraine symptoms are a continuous throbbing sensation in one area of the head, commonly accompanied by nausea, chills, a cold sweat and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Causes of migraines
Migraines occur when your blood vessels are dilated abnormally, but the exact mechanism is still unknown. Complex mechanisms such as a deficit of serotonin (an amino acid), platelet aggregation and nerve damage can lead to a migraine.
Fatigue, medication, excessive stimuli, stress, sleep disorders, and certain foods can trigger a migraine headache.
It’s often the case that a person suffering from a chronic headache moderates the pain using painkillers that reduce the pain temporarily, but do not address the root cause. Ironically, most chronic headaches are caused from “rebound” headaches produced by the usage of painkillers – and the overall condition gets worse. The side-effects of the painkillers result in further deterioration of the person’s physical condition.
Treatment approach for migraine
The first step to treating migraines is to find the trigger.
If you’re a drinker, stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol vigorously expands your blood vessels, which will worsen the headache. Chocolates, cheese, beer, and red wines contain substances called amines, a lot of which can expand blood vessels that in some people are sensitive enough to cause a migraine.
Artificial food additives, coloring and preservatives can also worsen the condition of your
headaches, you need to be aware of what you eat especially when you eat out or eat
Caffeine is often used as medicine to relieve headaches, but it’s important to gradually cut down on it because it may cause a severe rebound headache.
The most important thing is to know about any food allergies you might have. Foods like milk, wheat, chocolates, eggs, oranges, and cheese are most allergen-prone foods. A simple blood test can find which foods you’re allergic to.
Another thing you can do is to eat less animal fats and more fish and vegetables. Omega 3 fats, which is high in fish, and vitamin C and E (in vegetables) can prevent the aggregation of platelets. Also, magnesium is high in leafy green vegetables, and can help relax muscle tension.
Drinking water – at least 50 fl. oz. per day – for hydration is also very important.
Herbal medicines such as feverfew, lavender and butterbur are effective for reducing the frequency of migraines. Ginger can help you avoid migraines by preventing the aggregation of platelets, too. Drinking a cup of ginger tea (a piece of fresh grated or sliced ginger) a day will also help prevent migraines.
Taking 400mg vitamin B2 a day can reduce migraines by making inner-cell metabolism more efficient.
Taking 250-400mg of magnesium three times a day will reduce tension in your muscles, and prevent the vasoconstriction that can cause tension headaches and migraines. A magnesium injection will give you quicker relief if you have severe tension-type headache.
Since the misalignment of temporomandibular joints and the cervical spine and stiff neck muscles can aggravate migraine and tension headaches, craniosacral therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture are also effective treatments.
If you’re experiencing one of the following, consult your physician instead diagnosing yourself.
- Headaches following a head injury
- Sudden headaches that develop for the first time in many years
- Headaches that prevent you from doing normal daily activities
- Constant headaches