How to Rid Yourself of Headaches
What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors may come to mind. The most common type of headache is tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the congestion or pressure or a sinus headache, especially when you are battling a cold or flu or suffer from allergies? Then there are those awful migraines, these are the most intense of the headaches. They can be accompanied by symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odors. Sometimes certain scents can even trigger a migraine!
Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?
A headache may be an indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors, some of which may be difficult for you to pinpoint, such as food sensitivities and hormone imbalances.
The different types of headaches may include:
- Migraines – migraines are differentiated from other types of headaches mainly by the severity and the associated symptoms. If the headache pain is very intense and debilitating and comes with additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, visual changes or an inability to function and a need to just sleep it off, your headache may be a migraine headache.
- Tension headaches – tension headaches are common and are often the result of stress that results in muscle tension.
- Cluster headaches – cluster headaches are usually one-sided. Which side can vary from one headache to the next. They can be described as stabbing pain and the pain is usually severe. Cluster headaches can last up to a few hours and maybe worse lying down. They can be accompanied by symptoms like eye-watering on the side of the headache, nasal discharge on the side of the headache and may be worsened by alcohol.
- Sinus headaches – these headaches are the result of congestion or inflammation in your sinuses. They feel like pressure across your forehead, around your eyes, around your cheekbones, at the bridge of, beside or below your nose. They can be accompanied by cold symptoms. Gravity (bending over, lying down etc) may make them worse.
- Cervicogenic headaches – cervicogenic headaches originate from your cervical spine, which is the part of the spine in your neck. Chiropractic care can help to re-align the bones of your neck.
Headaches can also occur as the result of a concussion or post-traumatic brain injury. Craniosacral therapy and Osteopathy can be extremely helpful for these types of headaches. TBI or concussion can also result in hormone imbalances due to damage to your pituitary gland. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify hormone imbalances.
What are the symptoms of a headache?
Headache symptoms can vary depending on the person and the type of headache. You may experience any or all of the following headache symptoms:
- Pain. The pain may be described as aching, pounding, throbbing, squeezing, pressure, stabbing, or shooting.
- Visual changes. You may experience auras, difficulty seeing, or light sensitivity.
- Nausea or vomiting. With severe headaches and migraines, you may feel nauseous or vomit.
- Noise sensitivity. Migraines often trigger a sensitivity to light and sound.
- Pressure or congestion. Sinus headaches may involve a feeling of a stuffy nose or fullness around the eyes or in your forehead.
What Causes Headaches?
Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability.
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. The baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise. Self-care through psychotherapy, supporting your body’s stress glands (your adrenals), and relieving tension through massage therapy or chiropractic may all help.
We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the ever-dreaded hangover headache. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterwards? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include Monosodium glutamate a.k.a. MSG, nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine — a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats, as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.
Other foods that can trigger migraines include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache occurred. Our naturopathic doctors can provide food sensitivity testing that may help you identify your headache or migraine trigger foods.
Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? So, is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are 3X more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your naturopathic doctor about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life on many other levels.
If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience migraines. Thorough thyroid testing including checking TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin can help identify whether your thyroid is the source of the problem.
Natural Treatment for Headaches
A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils. These can be applied locally to your temples or forehead to help take the edge off your headache. They should not be ingested, particularly not in pregnancy, except under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor.
Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a naturopathic doctor to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively.
Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practised regularly over a period of just three months.
Visit your Chiropractor
Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to our Chiropractor can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.
If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects. Our naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist can provide acupuncture for headaches.
Particularly for tension headaches, but even for migraines, massage therapy can help relieve muscle tension that may be at the root of the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions about Headaches
Do you just have to live with headaches? Absolutely not. Our health experts can help you pinpoint and address the root cause of your headaches for longer lasting relief.
Are headaches normal? No. They are a sign that there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. A one-off headache after some intense stress is probably nothing to worry about, but if headaches are severe, or frequent, then you need to address the cause of the headaches.
Should I just take over-the-counter meds and just live with headaches? No. These medications if taken long term can have significant, negative health effects. Acetaminophen is toxic to your liver. Ibuprofen can erode your digestive tract and cause ulcers. Long-term ibuprofen use is hard on your liver and kidneys.
Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca and we will work to identify your triggers and find the best solutions for headaches together.
The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic