You can’t work and you can’t play.
Headaches are major problem.
With diet, hormone balance, and lifestyle intention, the pain and suffering can be reduced or eliminated.
You don’t get headaches because you were not taking aspirin!
The word “headache” is a general term for a wide variety of conditions; each of these conditions has different causes, intensities, durations and associated symptoms, but all end up in the same place: a painful struggle in the head. Oftentimes so intense laying down and cringing is the only option. Virtually everyone has a minor headache from time to time, and these are generally easy to deal with. The headaches that deserve more attention are those that are chronic in nature. While taking over-the-counter medications or learning to live with your headaches is an option, there are much better ways out of this mess.
Types of Headaches
Headaches can be classified into three main types: Tension, migraine and cluster Headaches.
- Tension: These headaches are the result of muscular tension and can usually be traced back to fatigue, stress, or prolonged misuse of muscles, such as extended amount of time sitting at a computer, working on an assembly line, or using tools (such as a jackhammer, drill…) . HPA Syndrome, combined with bad diet, is often the cause.
- Migraine: Migraine headaches occur predominately in women (of the nearly 32 million Americans with migraine, 24 million are women).1 There are two sub-types of migraines, those that occur with an aura and those that don’t. An aura is defined as a sensory disturbance that might include hallucinations (auditory or visual), visual obstruction, numbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness. Most people with migraines don’t report having an aura (80 percent). Migraine headaches are usually constant in nature and are experienced in the temples. The pain is described as throbbing or pulsating. The pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivities to light (photophobia) or noise. HPA Syndrome, combined with bad diet, may be an important factor.
- Cluster: The cluster headache used to be considered a migraine-type headache because it is vascular in nature, but is now considered a different enough headache to have its own designation. Cluster headaches typically occur on one side of the face and usually start as a sharp pain that is located near or around one eye. It may be accompanied by runny nose, bloodshot eye, or even tearing on the same side of the headache. The pain can move or radiate from the eye to the forehead, temple and cheek. The pain is described as piercing, throbbing, or pulsating and is extremely painful. These headaches typically occur in “waves” or clusters sometimes lasting days. HPA Syndrome, combined with bad diet, may be an important factor.
Women and Headaches
Women suffer from headaches far more than men (even tension headaches). Researchers suggest that women’s hormones (especially estrogen) may play a key role in the development of headaches; especially migraine and cluster headaches. 2
When looking for triggers for headaches, attention must be paid to a women’s monthly cycle, but this also means there are many times in a women’s life where fluctuating hormones may impact the severity and frequency of headaches. These include after puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and post-menopause and even when using oral contraceptives.3 Modern laboratory testing is available to identify your personal hormone health. Do not delay. Work with an expert and get help. You would spend how much money to get your car tuned up? How about your body? Correcting hormone problems can not only make your life more enjoyable, but also make it last longer.
Causes and Triggers
The cause of each type of headache is different. Tension headaches, for example, are typically caused by over-tightened muscles of the face, scalp, and neck. These muscles can become tightened by overuse, anxiety, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), or even the result of an injury (such as an automobile accident), or disease process (such as arthritis of the neck).
The cause of the vascular-type headaches (migraine and cluster) is largely unknown outside of knowing that there are changes to blood flow in the brain which, in turn, leads to pain.4
There are, however, many triggers that can cause vascular headaches:
- Mind/Emotion: Anxiety, depression, stress, and emotional upset are all triggers.
- Foods: Migraines are especially susceptible to food triggers. Common foods are caffeine, chocolate, aged cheeses, red wine, aspartame, monosodium glutamate and salty/processed foods.
- Medications: Using medications to treat headaches can actually result in more headaches. These headaches, known as medication overuse headaches (MOH) or rebound headaches are much more common than originally thought affecting up to 3-4 percent of the population. 5
- Hormones: As mentioned above, hormonal changes are a common trigger.
- Others: lack of sleep, skipping a meal, change in environment/weather.
- HPA Exhaustion: When hormones are out of whack, headaches are more common.
What to do about Headaches
Medical Approach to Headaches
The medical approach depends on the type of headache, while relying on the classic conventions of intervening on symptoms, risking liver damage, and avoiding care and attention to the underlying causes. Why fix a problem when your livelihood depends on it never being fixed?
- Tension Headaches: These are usually treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), usually ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve and others). Antidepressant or benzodiazepine tranquilizers are occasionally prescribed.
- Migraines: If mild, the headaches are usually managed with over-the counter medications. The more severe types are usually treated with a combination of antidepressants, beta-blockers, and antiepileptic drugs. Although they may be treated with triptans, calcium channel-blockers, anti-seizure drugs, Demerol, Reglan. Botox is being explored as a treatment.
- Cluster Headaches: A wide variety of medications have been tried, including calcium channel blockers, Sansert (a derivative of ergot), anticonvulsants (Topamax). Imitrex and indomethacin have been used to suppress an attack.
Complementary Approach to Headaches
- HPA Hormone Balancing: When the HPA glands are performing at their best, incidences of headache can be drastically reduced. With saliva based lab tests that measure cortisol and DHEA patterns, natural therapies for hormone balance can be developed. Find a doc.
- Functional Lab Testing: As with any health condition or prevention plan, one should devote resources towards doing as much lab testing as possible to identify dysfunction.
- Avoid Triggers: The most common approach to avoiding headaches (especially cluster and migraine) is to avoid the triggers. Discovering your triggers can be a long, drawn-out process, but worth the effort. Keeping a food log is a great way to begin the process. Eliminating all possible triggers and then reintroducing or testing is another approach. 6
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): Feverfew is an herb that has been used for many years for people with migraines. Recent studies have supported its use, especially to prevent new migraines.7
- Butterbur root (Petasites hybridus): A natural preparation of butterbur, called Petadolex has been sold in Germany since the 1970s for prevention of migraines. Recent research supports its use.8
- Acupuncture/Massage: The use of acupuncture for headaches has been shown in many studies to be effective.9 Massage seems to work well for tension headaches. 10
1 Lay CL, Broner SW. Migraine in women. Neurol Clin. 2009 May;27(2):503-11.
2 National Headache Foundation: Women and Headaches. http://www.headaches.org/educational_modules/medtronic/. Accessed 8/7/2009.
3 Aegidius K, Zwart JA, Hagen K, Schei B, Stovner LJ. Oral contraceptives and increased headache prevalence: the Head-HUNT Study. Neurology. 2006 Feb 14;66(3):349-53.
4 Mathew NT. Pathophysiology, epidemiology, and impact of migraine. Clin Cornerstone. 2001;4(3):1-17.
5 Katsarava Z, Holle D, Diener HC. Medication overuse headache. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2009 Mar;9(2):115-9.
6 National Headache Foundation: Diet and Headaches. http://www.headaches.org/education/Headache_Topic_Sheets/Diet_and_Headache_-_Foods . Accessed 7/31/2009.
7 Shrivastava R, Pechadre JC, John GW. Tanacetum parthenium and Salix alba (Mig-RL) combination in migraine prophylaxis: a prospective, open-label study. Clin Drug Investig. 2006;26(5):287-96.
8 Agosti R, Duke RK, Chrubasik JE, Chrubasik S. Effectiveness of Petasites hybridus preparations in the prophylaxis of migraine: a systematic review. Phytomedicine. 2006 Nov;13(9-10):743-6.
9 Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, et al. Acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jan 21;(1):CD001218.
10Moraska A, Chandler C. Changes in Clinical Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study. J Man Manip Ther. 2008;16(2):106-12.