"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind."
Khalil Gibran

Monday, October 17, 2011

Natural Headache Remedies

Headaches are a common and unwelcome part of life that effect many of us.  As a person who has struggled with headaches on and off for over 20 years I have an interest in finding alternative ways to treat them that does not require taking tons of pain medication.

There are many kinds of headaches as well as a wide variety of causes.  This means that one remedy will not likely work for everyone.  If you find a remedy that works for you it is also not likely that it will work for every headache that you have since they will likely not all be the same kind of headache.

The severity of a headache can vary from a dull pain that is gone within a few hours to a disabling migraine that can prevent you from doing your normal daily activities and last throughout the entire day and/or night. Anybody suffering from a migraine or disabling pain should consult a physician as soon as possible.

Headaches can be caused by several things, here is a list of common causes:
  • Emotional Stress - Stress and Tension headaches make up about 90% of all headaches.  Stress headaches are not usually disabling but a nuisance none-the-less.  Depression and anxiety contribute to stress headaches as well as
  • Tension - This mainly happens when long-lasting tension generates a reduction of the muscles in the neck.  The pain is usually throbbing and affects the front, top, or sides of the head. 
  • Poor Posture - Poor neck posture is a common cause of headaches as it places strain on your muscles spinal cord.  For every inch that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 10 pounds.  A forward head position is a cause of head and shoulder tension and pain, chronic pain, headaches, and stress-related illnesses.
  • High Blood Pressure - High blood pressure can cause headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, along with other symptoms.  If you have a history of hypertension (or if it runs in your family), you should consult a physician and have your blood pressure checked to be sure your headaches are not a side effect of a more serious problem.
  • Family Heredity - Do you have family members that suffer from headaches or migraines as frequently as you? Medical conditions can be passed down through generations. You can inherit a natural chemical imbalance which makes you susceptible to headaches.
  • Weather and Environment - The following have been identified as possible causes for headaches; changes in humidity, changes in temperature, storms, extremely dry conditions, intense odors, flickering lights, smoke, changes in altitude, and dusty environments.
  • Eye Strain - Straining your eyes to focus can cause headaches.  If you haven't had your eyes checked in a while, you should have your eyes checked.  If you're eyes have had a problem focusing over a long period of time, or if they have been degenerating over a long period, you might not even notice there is a problem.  Another eye strain can occur even if you have good vision, long periods of intensely focusing (sitting in front of the computer or reading/studying for an extended period)  
  • Fatigue - Overexertion, too many activities, and lack of sleep can cause headaches.  When sleep is disrupted on a continual basis (due to schedule changes, stress, or sleep disorders), it can result in headaches and fatigue.
  • Diet - Chemical reactions from food can effect certain people who are sensitive to certain substances in foods and drinks.  In addition, hunger and poor diet can cause headaches.  Skipping meals and low calorie diets can be a contributor as well.
  • Caffeine Withdrawal - Caffeine is a stimulant that is added to many beverages, foods, and dietary supplements.  Excessive intake is associate with caffeine dependency and can be linked to withdrawal symptoms which include headaches.
  •  Hormonal Changes - Headaches in women, particularly migraines, have been related to changes in the levels of estrogen (especially during a woman's menstrual cycle).  Estrogen levels drop immediately before the start of a woman's monthly cycle.  Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy have also been linked to headaches.

One of the first things to do when struggling regularly with headaches is to keep a headache diary.  You should write the following down:
  • Your symptoms - Write down where you feel pain, what it feels like, and any other symptoms that come with your headaches. (i.e., vomiting or sensitivity to noise, smells, or bright light)
  • Time - Write down the time your headache started and ended
  • Food - Write down any food or beverages you had. (common triggers include chocolate, caffeine, and foods with the preservatives MSG and nitrates)
  • Weather - Were there any changes in the weather, such as storms/rain, high winds, high humidity, or a high pollen count?
  • Treatment - You should keep track of any treatment(s) you tried, and whether or not it helped or made the headache worse.

Here is a LINK to a free online headache diary that you can print and use at home. 
If you end up going to the Doctor's office, be sure to take your headache diary with you.  It will provide important information for your Physician or medical practitioner.

Here are several different remedies that do not require pain medicine.

Natural Headache Remedies

1. Large Glass of Water - Sounds too easy, right? Well it works more often then you think. Dehydration is one of the MOST COMMON causes of headaches, so a glass of cool, clear water might be all you need to start relieving pain.

2. Deep Massage/Pressure Points - You probably already know about massages and how they help to relieve stress & tension. A firm massage on the head, face, AND neck can get rid (or greatly reduce) headache pain.  See this LINK for instructions and a list of pressure points.

3. Aromatherapy - This is becoming a commonly used headache remedies. Sandlewood, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, and a wide assortment of other natural oils can be used to reduce, if not completely eliminate pain. These scents can be found in oils, candles, and even soaps. *Note* If you are scent sensitive during your headache, this may not be a good idea.

4. Take a Hot Shower - Hot water on your neck and back should loosen your muscles and allow better blood flow. You can also use aromatic soap (idea #3) during this process.

5. Ice Pack - Take an ice pack and apply it to the back of your neck (or wherever the pain is located) and allow it to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. This technique should help reduce any inflammation.

6. Relaxing & Resting - Sometimes a headache is just your body telling you that you're overworked and stressed. Lie down in a dark room, shut your eyes, and just relax for awhile. Make a mental note to relax your muscles throughout the day, we often tense up our muscles when busy or stressed without even realizing it.

7. Diet - Do you eat always seem to get a headache when you eat certain foods or drink certain beverages? It might be time to eliminate some foods from your daily diet. Everyone reacts differently to foods (and the ingredients they contain) so it's important to look closely at the ingredients of what you're eating on days when headaches occur. If need be, keep a food diary (in addition to the headache diary to see if you've eaten or drank something similar on your days with a headache).  Eat frequent small meals to keep your blood sugar regular.  If you suspect a certain food (chocolate, wheat, dairy, etc.) try to eliminate it from your diet for a month and see if your headache decrease or terminate completely.

8. Calcium Supplement - This can help to relax your muscles and increase blood flow, which should help to alleviate pain a bit. A large glass of orange juice should do fine if you are without supplements. Many experts recommend taking a supplement which has both magnesium & calcium for maximum headache relief. 
*NOTICE* Calcium can react with several kinds of medication, including but not limited to: antacids, blood pressure medication, antibiotics, and other medicine.  Check with your Doctor first if you are taking any sort of medicine!
9. Exercise - This may be a remedy that is not easy to do depending on the severity of the headache. If possible, you should consider doing this before AND after a headache. Exercise increases circulation & blood flow which allows more blood & more oxygen to reach your brain. 

10. Rest your eyes - Do not strain your eyes to much. Give them a deserved rest every 50 min by looking at the horizon. 

11. Posture - For office use and video game play, place your computer monitor height so that the top third of the screen is even with your eyes and the screen is 18-24 inches from your face.  Take frequent breaks. If you sit for long periods, take frequent breaks, even if only for 30 seconds to get up or do neck exercises. Pull your head over your shoulders and squeeze the blades of your shoulders together in the back. Always use a back support pillow when sitting or driving. By supporting the back, the head and neck will move back over the shoulders.  Choosing a supportive neck pillow while in bed is very important since we spend about a third of our time sleeping.  Make a habit of checking your posture regularly, many of us slouch our neck and back forward while sitting and standing. 

I hope these remedies are helpful.


*This post is merely information - not medical advice. If readers need medical advice, they should consult a doctor or other appropriate medical professional. Mind Crumbs provides no warranties in relation to the medical information supplied on this blog, and that no liability will accrue to the blog owner in the event that a user suffers loss as a result of reliance upon the information.

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