Headaches & Migraine
The pain of headache or migraine can be felt in the forehead, eyes, jaws, temples, scalp, skull or neck. Headaches can have multiple triggers such as premenstrual tension (PMS), constipation and resulting auto-toxicity, liver sluggishness and high blood pressure, trauma and tension. Food allergies are often a factor so examine links with chocolate, certain alcohols, eggs, wheat and dairy products. Other known causes include unmanaged stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, bright or flashing lights, and lack of food or sleep.
The most common type of vascular headache is migraine and the cause is now thought most likely to be genetic, with highly individual triggers leading to regular attacks. Migraine headaches are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head. There may be nausea and an upset stomach and sometimes there is disturbed vision. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraine headaches and there is a strong hormonal link for many women. The next most common vascular headache is the toxic headache produced by fever; most people will have experienced this with a severe cold or flu. A vascular headache may also be the result of high blood pressure.
Migraine headaches may last a day or more and can strike as often as several times a week or as rarely as once every few years. The pain is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. The International Headache Society diagnoses a migraine by its pain and number of attacks. Their assessment is based on at least five attacks that when untreated will last for between 4 and 72 hours; they also rate additional symptoms including nausea and/or vomiting, or sensitivity to both light and sound. Roughly one-third of affected individuals can predict the onset of a migraine because it is preceded by an "aura" – visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zigzag lines or a temporary loss of vision.
Muscle contraction headaches are entirely different and involve the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles or follow trauma. Treatment is therefore more straightforward.
Traction and inflammatory headaches are symptoms of other disorders, ranging from stroke to sinus infection. In particular an inflammatory headache can serve as a warning signal of more serious disorders. This is particularly true for headaches caused by inflammation, including those related to meningitis as well as those resulting from diseases of the sinuses, spine, neck, ears, and teeth. The following symptoms must be immediately treated by a medical professional: ANY SUDDEN AND SEVERE HEADACHE associated with a stiff neck; headaches associated with fever, convulsions, or accompanied by confusion or loss of consciousness; headaches following a blow to the head, or associated with pain in the eye or ear; persistent headache in a person who was previously headache free; and recurring headaches in children.
There is no absolute cure for migraine since it remains poorly understood. The drug route may use drugs developed for epilepsy, depression, or high blood pressure. Botulinum toxin A has been shown to be effective in prevention of chronic migraine and is the drug injected in botox treatments. All these can have very undesirable side effects and should be the last resort. Behavioural therapies are now widely favoured and prevention management is highly desirable. Techniques include stress management strategies such as exercise, relaxation techniques and biofeedback mechanisms, and lifestyle changes including diet. Always examine your existing medication regimes. Nutrients and herbs currently being tested for their effectiveness in treating migraine include magnesium, coenzyme Q10, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2), feverfew, and butterbur.
Foods & herbs for the home
- Explore the relationship between your diet and your headache. This will involve a fairly extensive food diary where you also record your symptoms, which can give important insights to your triggers.
- Chocolate, wheat, dairy products, tea, coffee and alcohol are quite common triggers.
- Feverfew herb is easy to grow in a pot. It is strongly bitter. It can be taken by adding a few leaves every day to a slice of bread and butter and eat it in the morning. You can see this herb on our facebook page.
- Teas that relax the nervous system are excellent replacements for coffee. Consider Evening Peace Herbal Tea for the afternoon and evening.
- Because several B vitamins may be important in preventing migraines, it is advisable to emphasise green foods. Superfood Plus contains all the B vitamins and is a nutritious drink that is easy to take and highly absorbable.
- Manage stress and work at developing deep relaxation skills using biofeedback training to support you.
- Regular exercise such as swimming or vigorous walking may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.
- Sometimes osteopathic or chiropractic adjustment can help if the cause is a trapped nerve in the neck/spine.
- Deal with any underlying constipation.
- Work with a trained herbalist to restore hormonal balance. You may find an experienced herbalist in your area through The Association of Master Herbalists.
- If sinus congestion is a problem then consistently work at clearing the sinuses with Herbal Snuff powder.
- Light or deep massage can often benefit tense shoulders and neck. Use Relaxing Massage Oil to start the unwind process. Deeper muscle tension can be relieved with Deep Muscle Oil.
- Check your eyesight at an optician; you may find that new glasses are all that you need.
- Explore our information on allergies and learn if there is anything that can help you there. If environmental allergies are a problem then try to maintain a home and work environment that is free from chemical contaminants.
Additional help is available by phoning the free product advice line at Herbs Hands Healing between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm. Tel: 01379 608201.
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To learn more about natural healing for this and other ailments, visit Dr Schulze's blog.
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