No one should have to live with headaches. Headaches come in all sizes and shapes, intensities and causes. They can be mild and tolerable without need for intervention, moderate, requiring some intervention, or severe, requiring more aggressive treatment. The causes and types are quite variable – from a tension or sinus headache, to a migraine or cluster headache. They can be occasional or chronic. No matter what the headache, they all have a reason, and no one should have to live a life where headaches dictate your enjoyment or what you do (or don’t do).
Discovering the underlying reason for your headache is the most important aspect of care. Following this, it is crucial to treat it with natural means that don’t cause other problems in the body. For example, migraine medications are typically harsh on the liver and set the stage for more headaches, which only perpetuates a vicious cycle of pain and discomfort. In order to be free of headaches, you must see a practitioner skilled in determining the cause of the headache and not simply medicating it. Most headache and migraine medications work quite well in alleviating the symptoms of headache, but are they healing them? Generally, they manage them and some people are quite content with this. However, in my experience, people want more than just pain control – they want headaches out of their lives indefinitely!
Unless you have been exposed to other methods of alleviating headaches, out of desperation you may feel that medications are your only choice. The good news is that there are several choices other than medications with a proven history of being effective in managing and eliminating headaches.
These non-medication methods mean you will have to change things – most likely a combination of things as we’ll discuss. The degree to which you do so, the quantity of things you choose to change and the duration of your changes will all dictate the degree to which you will resolve your headaches. But change you must. The reward – a life free from headaches!
Stress: Stress is a known cause of headaches, but the good news is that there are a myriad ways to regulate and relieve it. We all have stress. How we cope with it (or don’t) influences your health more dramatically than is generally realized. Your general health makes a significant difference in how well you cope. For instance, your adrenal glands are a large part of your stress-coping mechanism. If they aren’t quite working up to par (which does not necessarily mean they are diseased) your ability to cope with stress markedly diminishes. Sugar, coffee, and alcohol consumption all undermine adrenal function.
Also, our choices affect how well we cope with stress. By using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, massage, meditation, long walks and deep breathing, etc. you can contribute to well being and stress reduction.
Nutrition: Nutrition also plays a vital role in headaches. Many headaches are caused by either nutritional deficiencies or dietary excesses. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as well as high sugar consumption can contribute to headaches. Consumption of food additives such as nitrates and MSG can be headache triggers. In addition, vitamin deficiencies have been directly related to headaches.
Sinus headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and even “daily headaches” respond very favorably to acupuncture treatments. In fact, most headaches go away immediately with the first treatment before even leaving the office. However, it takes multiple treatments to make them go away permanently. Other natural methods such as chiropractic and massage have also been shown in many studies to be quite effective in treating mild to severe headaches.
If you’re sick and tired of dealing with headaches and having them dictate the quality of life you get to experience, the combination of acupuncture and nutrition is the best path to restoring your health!
© 2007 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.