It seems that April, with our income tax deadline looming, is a good month to discuss headaches! Headaches can really dominate a person’s life when they’re severe. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to avoid headaches and to reduce the severity of the headaches we don’t manage to escape entirely.
A headache is a pain in the head and/or upper neck. It is one of the most common locations of pain in the body. There are several types of headache, and many causes or triggers of headache. The most common types are as follows:
- Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Nearly 90 percent of women and about 70 percent of men experience a tension headache at some time in their life, while 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men experience them regularly. They generally cause a constant pressure or a dull ache that affects the entire head. The headache usually begins slowly, with the ache often focused above the eyes. There may be a feeling of tightness across the forehead or at the back of the neck. There is contraction of the head and neck muscles. The headache can last for hours or days at a time, with mild to moderate pain, that is usually worse by the end of the day. Most people can function normally in spite of the headache.
- Migraine headaches are the second most common type of headache. About 25 percent of Canadian women and about 8 percent of Canadian men get migraines during their lifetime. About 60 percent of migraine sufferers have 1 or more attacks per month, while 25 percent have migraines at least once a week. They involve moderate to severe pain that is throbbing or pulsing and often strikes one side of the head. They can last from 4 to 72 hours, or even longer. Other common symptoms include increased sensitivity to light, noise and odors; and nausea and vomiting. Routine physical activity, movement, or even coughing or sneezing can worsen the headache pain. About 1 in 7 migraine sufferers experience auras (visual disturbances that include flashes of light, zigzag lines or blind spots) before a headache begins. Without treatment, migraines are often so severe that people are unable to carry out normal daily activities.
- Sinus headaches can occur after an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold, or a lengthy bout of hay fever. They involve a bacterial infection of the sinuses. People often have a runny or stuffy nose at the same time. It is usually worse in cold, damp weather and in mornings; it lessens in the afternoons.
- Cluster headaches are a relatively uncommon type of headache, affecting less than 1 percent of the population. They occur in “clusters” that can range from one to several a day. They often begin during sleep. Episodes usually last from 6 to 12 weeks. There can be long headache-free periods lasting from months to years. The pain is excruciating, usually on one side of the head or behind the eye, and they affect more men than women.
- Rebound headaches can occur as a result of over-use of pain medication for the original headache, or, if you’re taking a headache medication fairly routinely, you may experience a rebound headache when you discontinue or withdraw from it.
- Other types of headache include ice pick headaches which are severe headaches that occur suddenly, causing a few seconds of intense pain at a small localized spot. While the cause is not known, they are usually not due to a serious problem. Ice cream headaches are also of short duration, and can occur when something cold touches the roof of your mouth on a hot day. They are more likely to occur when one eats ice cream or other frozen substances very quickly.
- Most headaches are not due to dangerous conditions, but sometimes a headache can be a sign of something more serious. You need to seek emergency medical care if you have a headache that:
- Gets worse over days or weeks
- Is accompanied by impaired neurological function (e.g. loss of balance, weakness, numbness, or speech disturbance) and double vision (could signal a stroke)
- Is accompanied by persistent nausea and vomiting (but isn’t a migraine)
- Is accompanied by seizures, mental disturbances, and loss of consciousness
- Is associated with a fever or stiff neck (could signal meningitis)
- Is different than the usual pattern of headaches you have experienced
- Strikes suddenly with great intensity.
The cause of some types of headache is not known, e.g. migraine, and cluster headaches. However, there is much more that is known about the triggers for headaches.
- Tension headaches may be triggered by eyestrain, fatigue, anxiety and stress (mental or emotional), as well as mechanical factors such as working at a computer for prolonged periods.
- Migraine headaches have many triggers, including:
- Certain foods and beverages, such as chocolate, aged cheese, red wine that contain tyramine,
- Preservatives, e.g. nitrates and nitrites, and flavour enhancers, e.g. MSG,
- Hormonal changes (during a woman’s menstrual cycle),
- A change in barometric pressure,
- An increase in temperature,
- Exposure to flashing lights or very bright lights,
- Loud noise,
- Skipping meals,
- Lack of sleep, fatigue.
Not all migraine sufferers respond to all triggers; each person needs to learn (and avoid if possible) the triggers that affect them personally.
- Sinus headaches are caused by sinus infections. One possible culprit to look out for is your nasal spray – sometimes it can become contaminated and infect your sinuses.
- Cluster headaches – it is not known what triggers the cluster of headaches, but during a cluster, it is best to avoid alcohol and smoking which can trigger headaches. Of course, smoking is best avoided in any case.
can help pinpoint specific triggers, and help the headache sufferer to spot patterns.1
- Relief of stress is key to avoiding headaches. Yoga, deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation are recommended. Pacing oneself by taking time every day to decompress and relax is effective.
- Healthy living:
- Get enough good quality sleep (see newsletter December 2010).
- Eat regular nutritious meals (see newsletter March 2009).
- Regular aerobic exercise can prevent headaches and also relieve headache pain (see newsletter May 2010). Exercise can help by producing endorphins which can ease (or prevent) the headache and also boost the mood and reduce the sensation of pain.
- Be sure to avoid dehydration which can cause headaches (see newsletter, April 2010).
- Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol.
- Treat anxiety and depression which may be underlying conditions contributing to some headaches. Behavour modification, cognitive therapy or psychological counseling may help deal with them, as well as the different aspects of ‘healthy living’, especially physical activity.
- Alternative therapies including biofeedback and acupuncture (or acupressure) may provide relief for some people. Biofeedback can help prevent migraines by teaching the person to warm his/her hands (which typically are cold at the beginning of a migraine attack), or to relax the muscles in the forehead.
- Supplementation, e.g. of magnesium and co-enzyme Q10 can help prevent migraines. Some B vitamins may also be helpful (see below for details).
to such factors as barometric pressure changes, outdoor moulds, humidity and any other environmental or food sensitivities is something I can help you with. Please contact me for an appointment to discuss your headache triggers and what can be done.
There are a number of Nature’s Sunshine supplements that can help prevent headaches including migraines and sinus headaches:
- Magnesium complex – Magnesium is a vital element of the body, concentrated primarily in bones and within each cell. Magnesium is essential for calcium absorption, as well as for every biological function, including glucose metabolism and the production and balance of cellular energy. Magnesium, also known as the "antistress" mineral, is a vital catalyst in enzyme activity. Magnesium is involved in nearly every essential bodily function, from the beating of the heart to the creation of bones and the regulation of blood sugar. It is so important that it is called the "gatekeeper of cellular activity," signifying its critical role in cellular processes. It plays a role in the prevention of migraines. It is best to take magnesium with calcium and vitamin D.
- AL-J Herb Extract and AL-J Vegi-Tab Combination Herb – AL-J is an excellent respiratory formula for relieving sinus and upper respiratory congestion associated with allergies. It may help to avoid sinus headaches.
- CoQ10 – Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like nutrient that fuels the body’s cells with special benefits to the circulatory system. It may be beneficial to people who suffer from migraines.
- Feverfew, High Potency – With its higher concentration of the active ingredient, parthenolide, High Potency Feverfew is more potent and effective in relieving migraines than regular feverfew. Feverfew helps migraine headaches by reducing two chemicals in the body which, in excess, are believed to be responsible for the intense head pain, nausea and light sensitivity associated with migraines: prostaglandin, which causes inflammation; and serotonin, produced by blood platelets, which constricts and then dilates arteries. Researchers have confirmed feverfew’s ability to inhibit the formation of prostaglandin affiliated with pain and inflammation. Feverfew also slows the rate at which blood clots, which is believed to play a part in at least some migraines. Furthermore, feverfew has been shown to prevent enzyme and histamine release from immune cells, which has been linked with inflammation, and may explain the herb’s traditional use for treating arthritis. Feverfew also reduces fever and cools the body.
- Histablock – This formula provides relief to allergy sufferers and may benefit asthma patients. It can be used for colds, flu, runny nose, and conditions of excessive phlegm. Histablock also controls the immune system’s inflammatory response, with its blend of stinging nettle, quercetin, bitter orange peel and bromelain. Histablock can be used to safely* relieve allergy symptoms and improve breathing, without the side effects commonly associated with over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays. Histablock can help prevent sinus infections that lead to sinus headaches. *Note that one of Histablock’s ingredients, stinging nettle, should be avoided by pregnant and breast-feeding women, and children under 2.
- HTP Power (60) – HTP stands for hydroxytrytophan,a new supplement which is a natural antidepressant. It could help to prevent headaches related to depression.
- HVP – Nutritionally supports the nervous system. A sedative and tranquilizing formula. It could help prevent headaches related to anxiety.
- STR-J – Provides nutrients that must be present for proper function of the nervous system. The formula contains one of the most favored herbs of Europe—chamomile. This combination is high in chromium, magnesium and vitamins A and C. Stress-J works well with other supplements like B-complex vitamins, bee pollen and extra vitamin C. It contains: Chamomile flowers, Passion flowers, Fennel seeds, Feverfew herb, Hops flowers, and Marshmallow root. It’s available in capsule and liquid glycerin form. This may help prevent headaches caused by anxiety. Feverfew specifically helps prevent headaches.
- St John’s Wort with Passion Flower - Throughout the years this herb has gained a solid reputation as a tranquilizer and as a treatment for depression and insomnia. The plant has also been used as a muscle relaxant to lessen menstrual cramps. In Europe, St. John’s Wort is a popular remedy for gastro-intestinal disorders such as gastric ulcers. It has also been used as a pain killer for rheumatism, burns and irritations. It may help prevent headaches due to depression and lack of sleep.
- Synerpro Vitamin B complex or Vitamin B Complex plus Vitamin B6 – B-complex vitamins are particularly important for the nervous system. They may help prevent headaches including migraines. I can help you determine which of these formulations would benefit you most.
For additional information, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at http://ramilashealingartsclinic.com/index for back issues of this newsletter, for
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The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Witten M. Headaches: what causes them and how to treat them. http://www.canadianliving.com/health/prevention/headaches_what_causes_them_ and_how_to_treat_them.php Accessed April 11, 2011..
2)Headaches. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/headache.htm Accessed April 11, 2011.
3)Headaches. http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_condition_info_details.asp?disease_ id=67&channel_id=42&relation_id=10900 Accessed April 11, 2011.
4)Wedro BC. Headache. http://www.medicinenet.com/headache/article.htm Accessed on April 11, 2011.
5)Headache: Hope Through Research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH Publication NO. 09-158, last updated February 18, 2011.
6) Oh my aching head! Living Well e-newsletter, http://www.affinityinfo.ca/carp/ 20110308/20110308_landing1.html Accessed March 10, 2011.
7)Do you suffer from “ice cream headache”? University of Guelph, http://www.foodscience.uoguelph.ca/dairyedu/icheadache.html Accessed April 11, 2011.
8)Coenzyme Q10. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient- coenzymeq10/DSECTION=evidence Accessed April 15, 2011.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic