Research shows that 3,000 headaches occur daily per million people in the general population. This equates to over 190,000 headaches every day in the UK. According to the Migraine Trust, migraines are the third most common disease in the world, with an estimated global prevalence of around 1 in 7 people. So, if you suffer with a headache or a migraine – what can you do?
The most common type of headache is tension headaches. A sufferer will experience a constant ache and pressure round the head. This can be prominent at the temples or at the back of the head. They are not as severe as migraines and they rarely cause any nausea. They don’t normally stop people from performing daily activities.
Tension headaches are usually caused by either muscle contractions or muscle tension in the head and neck region. Many different things can cause these muscles contractions including poor posture, foods, staring at a computer screen for too long or prolonged driving.
These types of headache affect more men than women. They have more of a pattern and typically occur in groups or cycles. The frustrating thing about cluster headaches is that they can appear suddenly, often causing severe debilitating pain on one side of the head. Some people also report experiencing watery eyes, nasal congestion and feeling restless.
Researchers have found a strong link between levels of the hormones melatonin and cortisol and the occurrence of many cluster headaches. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland at night to help us drop into a deep sleep at night. Cortisol is one of the hormones produced when we are stressed.
Sufferers usually describe a severe, throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Other symptoms are often associated with migraines, such as nausea, sensitivity to light and ‘stars in your eyes’. Due to the severity of migraines, they can stop a sufferer from performing daily activities, and can last a couple of hours to several days.
Some of the most common migraine triggers include:
- Bright lights, loud noises, flickering lights, temperature changes
- Emotional stress, anxiety or depression
- Physical triggers such as tiredness and poor posture
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Undiagnosed silent viruses
- Bad gut bacteria – candida and yeast overgrowth is the most common
- Toxic stressors such as heavy metals in your system
- Hormonal triggers such as menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, and menopause
- Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or the artificial sweetener aspartame
- Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods
- Medication such as sleeping tablets, the contraceptive pill, and hormone replacement therapy.
It’s important to identify which type of headache you are suffering from before you treat it. Mild tension headaches can usually be treated with some common types of over-the-counter pain killers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). More debilitating headaches, such as migraines, require stronger prescription medication.
Common medications used to treat headaches include Tylenol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen, Naproxen and Diclofenac. Unfortunately, these can have side-effects like constipation, heartburn, an upset stomach, drowsiness, vision problems and nausea. The long-term use of these medications can also have a negative effect on the liver.
The Asyra test
As a result of the side-effects of painkiller medications, many people look for alternative ways to reduce the severity and frequency of headaches. A new treatment option, Asyra, was originally developed by the health department of NASA, and Asyra is now proven as one of the more effective alternative ways of tackling headaches and migraines.
Asyra identifies and addresses many of the root causes of headache, not only to help reduce their frequency but to also prevent them coming back. The Asyra testing machine does this by measuring and monitoring electrical wavelengths emitted from your skin; the information collected is automatically sent back to a computer in a matter of minutes to analyse. The analysis provides an accurate picture of what is stressing the body so that a headache or migraine occurs.
The Asyra machine runs through the following tests:
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Mineral deficiencies
- Hormone imbalances
- Spinal misalignments
- Emotional stressors
- Gut bacteria
- Toxic stressors – heavy metals
Not only can the Asyra test help identify the root cause of your headaches or migraines but it will use the data collected to suggest the most appropriate natural treatments to help eliminate those causes.
Clinical studies show the Asyra test is 97% as effective as private blood tests but at a fraction of the cost. For example, a hormone panel blood test alone can cost several hundred pounds.
The Asyra tests imbalances of hormones plus over 57 additional elements within the body. The natural treatments it suggests are a combination of nutritional supplements and physical therapy advice.
Many people suffering from headaches often show on the Asyra test to have low magnesium levels. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant so can be effective for tension type headaches. Try taking a regular supplement.
Peppermint and lavender essential oils
Peppermint and lavender essential oils both have calming and numbing properties.
Peppermint oil cools the skin and stimulates skin blood flow in the forehead. It also has the ability to ease muscle contractions.
Lavender oil is commonly used as a mood regulator and sedative. Much research has now shown it to be an effective treatment of migraines.
One study conducted in 2012 measured the results of inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes. The 47 participants were asked to record the effects every half hour, for two hours. Out of 129 headache attacks, 92 responded to the lavender oil remedy.
The best way to use these oils is to place a few drops of peppermint or lavender into your hands and massage the blend into your forehead, temples and back of neck. If the smell is too strong for you or the peppermint is to cold on the skin then you can dilute them with oils such as grapeseed oil, almond oil or coconut oil.
Many tension type headaches are directly linked to prolonged sitting at a desk or poor posture. Also, with the use of smart phones and tablets, the typical hunched over position can put an extra 10-15 kilograms of pressure on your neck!
Regularly stretching your neck and shoulders, and stretching your chest out between a doorway 30 seconds at a time, several times a day, can be effective.
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can contribute to all type of headaches, and drinks such as coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol are dehydrating. Most people in the UK don’t drink enough water, especially in the winter months. Water is free and has so many more benefits than just helping to reduce headaches. It can also energize us and keep us feeling full. The high-water content of fruits and vegetables can be another great way of hydrating yourself.
These natural solutions won’t work for everyone, simply because every headache and migraine is caused by something different. So, finding the cause is always the first step – and it will help you prevent them from ever returning.
Oliver Eaton is a registered Osteopath, Medical Acupuncturist and Musculoskeletal Injection Therapist. He specializes in the treatment of arthritis and headaches/migraines with patients all over the UK and Europe.
Much of Oliver’s specialties were learnt through personal experience; suffering from a series of chronic conditions from which he made a full recovery using alternative medicine approaches. This sparked his passion for specializing in the treatment of patients with chronic pain. As one of the leading practitioners in his field on Harley Street, he has built his reputation on achieving results with patients who had previously had no success elsewhere.
ProHealth Clinic is the only clinic in the UK to incorporate the Asyra Test into a specialist drug-free treatment program they have put together for headaches and migraines. The program combines both nutrition and gentle physical therapy. For stress-related headaches and migraines they also prescribe simple and practical psychotherapy techniques to combat stress and emotional issues.
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