Life can get pretty busy and stressful, and the “common” headache is sometimes overlooked or masked with a painkiller
The first step to looking beyond prescriptions is to look at the contributing factors of the headache. Some people will often use a headache diary to help them sort out these issues.
Stress. Stress by far is the most obvious contributing factor to headache, but taking a moment to find solutions to combat your stress may not be as obvious.
Dietary Factors. In the realm of diet, food additives seem to be the biggest triggers. Make sure to take a look at the labels of the foods that you are eating to see if there are a lot of added preservatives and consider asking about the use of MSG at various restaurants. Skipping meals has also been found to be a trigger as well. Caffeine which was thought to play a role in the past seems to show mixed results on its impact on headache.
Muscle and Joint Problems. Often when it comes to tension and migraine headaches, the involvement of the neck is often over looked. It may be worth getting an evaluation of you neck muscles and joints by a physician or physical therapist to see if there are any issues stemming from your muscle system.
"The exact mechanism of action of headaches isn’t fully understood. There are no true nerves for pain in the area where it is experienced. Pain and discomfort of this nature ultimately comes from blood vessels in the head that rapidly dilate and may become inflamed. Exactly how this happens is far from clear, but there are several plausible theories"
How can you address these issues without using a prescription, an over the counter pain reliever, or even an herbal pill?
1) Reduce Stress through Breath - Breath is very intimately connected to our mood states. Just by practicing a simple breath exercise, you can train your brain to reduce you stress level immediately. Pick a time every day and practice this exercise for just 1 minute. If you can keep with it for 45 days you'll begin to see its effects and then when in a stressful situation comes, one breath is all it takes.
2) Reduce Stress through a Moving Meditation Exercise. Yoga and Tai Chi are some of my favorites. Look for a class that has a teacher is focused on calming movement and breath rather than just exercise. You'll likely see results faster than on your own. Here are just a few practitioner's in the Jacksonville Beach/ Ponte Vedra area who focus on this aspect of Yoga and Tai chi (Sheri Nicholson & Deb Joiner). However, wherever you are you can find Practioners focused on the meditation aspects of these exercise practices. If going to a class is just not possible, try a walking meditation. Just take a walk for 10 min, but try to clear your mind of any thoughts while you walk. Focus on your breath or one word. Your mind will likely wander, but be gentle to yourself and come back to your practice.
3) Improve your Diet through small steps. For headache sufferers this mean just making sure you eat small meals throughout the day without skipping. It may also mean keeping healthy snacks handy in your purse or desk drawer so that you are not reaching for something quick stocked full of preservatives. Stay Hydrated, the dehydrating effects of coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol can certainly leave us with a killer headache.
4) Rejuvenate Muscles, Joints and Nerves through Acupuncture. In the medical community, acupuncture has the highest levels of studies behind its effectiveness both in helping with an acute migraine and with preventing them from occurring. Despite what most have experienced in Western Medicine, the needles are for the most part pain free. Very thin, sterile disposable needles that are small and hardly noticeable during a treatment.
The good news for headache and migraine suffers is that there are a lot of holistic options available to help and just a few are listed here. Consulting a local Integrative Physician is a great way to understand what options are best for you. If you are in the Jacksonville, St Augustine, & Ponte Vedra areas and interested in exploring more options, please join us for a workshop with Dr Nicholas Scotto & myself on Neck Pain and Headaches, June 18th, by calling 904 930-4774 or visiting our website at www.BalancedPhysicianCare.com
Dr. Sharyl Truty is an Integrative Medicine Physician and owner of Balanced Physician Care in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.