Posted on 24th February 2021 at 07:23
From time to time we look back at the ever growing list of our Blog posts – over 300 to date (!) – and are surprised we haven’t covered a particular topic. This week’s is a very good example of what we’re talking about, particularly as it’s something we can virtually guarantee that everyone has experienced at some time or other.
Despite this, it tends to be thought of as just “one of those things” which will usually disappear as quickly as it appeared. Although, often, it’s a gentle reminder we haven’t been looking after ourselves quite as well as we thought. Or, perhaps, have overstretched the mark.
Have you guessed what we’re talking about yet? Headaches.
Given that Headaches are such a common – and usually minor – condition, it’s surprising how generalised the information is about them. And this isn’t due to a lack of research, with a huge number of studies having been carried out over the years.
Rather it’s due to this term being used as a general “catch all” to cover, as the medical dictionaries describe them, “a pain or discomfort felt in the Head, Face or Upper Neck.” Which, to be honest, isn’t very helpful at all!
It also explains why the classifications used to describe them aren’t much more useful either. Primary, meaning the Headache isn’t linked to another condition. Is “one of those things.” Secondary, where it is. Cluster Headaches, as the name suggests, where there are a number of Headaches or they’re focussed on one particular area of the Head or Face.
For this reason, we find it’s much more helpful to come at things from the other direction. To start with the likely cause and work back from there. While this may sound a little strange at first, the big advantage of this approach is that the action needed to help alleviate it quickly becomes obvious.
So, let’s quickly take a look at some of the most common causes of Headaches.
The most common cause is something we talk about regularly in this Blog, so there are no prizes for guessing what it is. Dehydration. It tends to result in a toxic, hung over Headache. The “grumpy bear” Headache.
What often surprises people are how many different causes there can be for it. Yes, not drinking enough water or drinking too much of something that’s dehydrating on its own. Tea, coffee, alcohol.
Less obvious is skipping a meal or eating food you wouldn’t normally eat. Particular culprits are processed or ultra processed foods, which overload the body and burn up its water resources.
And then there are other quite obvious causes, well, if you stop and think about them. Over exertion, over heating, the ill effects of hot weather or too much sun. All are dehydrating, burning up the body’s water resources, often before we realise what’s happening.
Finally, comes another major cause which isn’t immediately obvious, but has the same end result. Medication, whether ongoing or taken ad hoc, taken at the recommended dose or not. Ironically, many over the counter headache medications can lead to so called “Rebound Headaches”, again due to dehydration.
Despite the plethora of different causes, the good news is that the solution is quick and simple. And, again, there are no prizes for guessing what it is. Drinking plenty of water! However, there are two important things to remember. First, simply glugging down lots of water – particularly if it’s cold – is likely to only make you feel nauseous, or worse, come straight back up again. Much better to slowly sip a large glass of lukewarm water which, even though it seems counter intuitive, results in much quicker absorption. Second, add a pinch of sea salt to it, to help restore the electrolyte balance disrupted by dehydration.
A close second to dehydration come Headaches caused by Stress or Tension, again, with a myriad of different triggers. Again, they can have a “grumpy bear” component but tend to be coupled with more acute pain. If you look at the person affected, their posture – with their shoulders up under their ears and stressed expression – is usually sufficient to confirm the likely cause.
Again, the solution is relatively simple. Well, in theory, if not always in practice! To address the issue causing the stress / tension as well as giving ways to help diffuse the ill effects. Relaxation, meditation and / or exercise to help burn up the adrenaline generated in the process. And, our old friend, water!
Hormonal Headaches can look remarkably similar, although a pattern can usually be seen quite easily. Whether before, during or after a Period. And, for our male readers, it’s not just women who can be hit by their monthly hormonal patterns. Testosterone, the male hormone, also fluctuates during the month and can affect the mood. Which is probably a good place to stop and leave it there!
Like Stress or Tension Headaches, a two pronged approach works best. Addressing the underlying hormonal issue with the therapy of your choice; as well as making sure that water consumption increases before the likely time of the Headaches, to help reduce toxicity and so the likelihood of Headaches.
Inflammation is another common cause, in the Mucus Membranes lining the Sinuses, the tiny nasal passages around the Eyes, Nose and Ears. It causes the Sinus pain and Headaches associated with Colds, Flu, Hayfever and other Allergies; which can be excruciating.
While painkillers can help reduce the pain, a very traditional naturopathic solution also works well. This is steaming, which helps open up the nasal passages and soothe the Mucus Membranes, reducing pressure and so the symptoms.
As the name suggests, it simply involves sitting over a bowl or newly boiled water with a towel over your head to keep in all the lovely steam. Simply breath it in – not too deeply, or you can end up feeling rather light headed – for a few minutes several times a day.
Again, there are a couple of things to remember. First, to stay inside and keep warm afterwards, otherwise the sinuses will close right up, undoing all the good work and probably with a fair dose of added discomfort. Second, you can add essential oils such as Lavender, Rosemary or Eucalyptus to aid the process or, if you prefer, Olbas Oil which does a similar job. And do we need to mention drinking plenty of water to help flush things through?!?
Less common are Post Traumatic Headaches, in other words, from a Fall, Head or Neck Injury. This can cover any blow to the Head or Neck, with Concussion or Whiplash being the most common. However, as a slight aside, one cause we see remarkably regularly comes from birth trauma. Perhaps where the baby gets “stuck” in the birth canal or has a forceps delivery. While this may not be obvious as a Head Injury, this is exactly what it is and the effects can go well beyond Headaches.
In all these cases, the symptoms can vary hugely and may not appear for some time after the incident, making it difficult to link cause and effect. For this reason, if you experience a Headaches after any sort of Head Injury, it’s a sensible precaution to seek medical advice to be on the safe side. This is particularly the case if it includes any of the symptoms listed below. In addition – and from our experience – this is where “hands on” treatment can be particularly useful, to address the underlying Musculo Skeletal trauma / causes.
And, finally, another less common cause is Hypertension, High Blood Pressure. This is a potentially serious Headache which does require immediate medical attention. It usually occurs on both sides of the Head and is typically worse with any type of exertion, however minor. Often, there’s a pulsating sensation and there may also be changes in vision, numbness or tingling, nosebleeds, chest pain, or shortness of breath. If you’re aware that Hypertension is an issue for you, this is one to be aware of. If not, it is worth taking your blood pressure before you do anything else.
The most important thing to remember about Headaches – and which distinguishes them from Migraines – is that they tend to be short lived, only lasting a few hours or, perhaps, a day with less pain / discomfort. Although we do appreciate that pain levels are a very subjective measure! This isn’t to say they are pain free but are certainly less so than Migraines. They also clear quite quickly, whether on their own or once the appropriate action is taken to address the cause.
However, in addition to the Hypertension Headache already mentioned, there are some symptoms to be aware of which do require immediate medical attention and include:
• A Headache which seems to clear, but then keeps returning, OR seems to be increasing in intensity, with painkillers not helping relieve it.
• Intense throbbing pains in the front or side or your Head.
• Sensitivity to light or noise.
• Repeated bouts of sickness.
• Numbness or weakness, for example, of your arms or legs.
And that’s probably more than enough about Headaches for one day! To complete the picture, we’ll be looking at Migraines in a couple of weeks’ time.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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