Do you get Headaches or is it Migraines?
Did you know that migraine is a physical illness and there can be a variety of causes making it hard to treat? However it affects many of us and given time and effort it is controllable. Migraines divide into two main categories. Classic migraines are usually preceded by a visual disturbance such as flashing lights, funny patterns before the eyes or blurring of vision. This type is usually the cause in sixty-five per cent of sufferers and comes with little warning. The pain develops slowly into a throbbing ache, which gets worse with movement or noise. Both types can also have symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Migraines can be the result of changes in the neurotransmitters and blood vessels in the brain. What causes these changes is unknown. Triggers can include stress, foods such as cheese, alcohol, chocolate, lack of food or irregular meals (this also causes a drop in blood sugar), over tiredness and hormonal changes such as menstruation. Menstrual migraines usually affect ten per cent of women and usually relate to a drop in estrogen at that time.
The first step in getting rid of consistent headaches is to identify some kind of cause. The most common headaches tend to fall into certain categories outlined below. Decide which most closely matches yours from the list below before you explore treatments. It may also be useful to keep a diary to identify what triggers your headaches. It could be anything from feeling low, the weather, your menstrual cycle, what you eat and when and how you sleep. Look for food triggers and make a list of all the foods you eat in the 48 hours before an attack to see if any regularly recur.
* Cluster Headaches – These strike with little warning, often waking up sufferers at night. The pain usually affects just one side of the face and centres on the eye area. It lasts for between 15 minutes to three hours and can return up to 10 times a day for six to 10 weeks at a time (not nice) during a cluster period. It will then disappear for months or even years. No one is really sure of the cause but it is thought that some sort of irritation to the facial nerves may be to blame. Cluster headaches are more common in men, especially if they smoke or drink.
* Tension Headache – This is very common and is a dull, steady pain on both sides of the head. It can feel like a tight band or heavy weight is pressing on the head. It is usually a direct result of stress, which causes the muscles of the neck and scalp tense up. It can also be caused by bad posture, sitting in draught, bright lights, too much noise or working for long periods sitting in an awkward position.
* Chronic daily headache – These occur on more than 15 days each month. They can be due to a neck or head injury such as whiplash or overuse of painkillers. Yes, you read it right! People who take painkillers on a daily basis develop a vicious cycle and as these wear off there is a rebound headache so the person takes more painkillers and these fuel the headache in a vicious cycle.
It is important if you are suffering constant pain of any sort to GET IT CHECKED either by your doctor or natural practitioner. This is not something to sweep under the carpet especially in this age of consistent use of mobile phones and exposure to other types of radiation.
The herb Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) has proved very successful with many people for migraines. It is available at your health food store and should be taken for a period of no less than three months. If you are keen you can grow your own plants but I warn you they taste bitter – real medicine taste unfortunately.
A study using a supplement containing the herbs Feverfew and Salix Alba (white willow) was found to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine attacks. Clients with migraine were given a supplement (Mig-RL) containing extracts of feverfew and white willow twice a day for 12 weeks.
Results showed that seventy per cent of patients experienced a fifty per cent reduction in migraines (some even higher) compared to the frequency of attacks experienced during a 6 week baseline period. 57.2% of clients experienced reduced attacks halfway through the study (6 weeks), and a 61.7% reduction at 12 weeks. The actual length of the attacks also decreased. In all patients involved in the study, the duration of attacks reduced by 67.2% at 6 weeks, and 76.2% at 12 weeks.
It was also noticed that the combination of feverfew and white willow was associated with improvements generally regarding their health, energy, memory and anxiety.
There are many natural therapies for headaches including chiropractic, cranial osteopathy, homeopathy, reflexology, rolfing, acupressure, herbal remedies, massage, aromatherapy, modification of diet, head balancing and jaw realignment. Head balancing can also be used for snoring, dizziness, grinding of teeth, ringing in the ears and neck and shoulder tension. Consult a practitioner experienced in diagnosis to determine which would be best for you.