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Natural Stress Relief

Headaches - Causes and Treatment

           Headaches are one of the most common complaints that people have. Over 40 million Americans have chronic headaches, and over 20 million Americans suffer from either migraine or cluster headaches, either occasionally or chronically. However, about 90% of all headaches are the common tension headache. There are at least 21 different subtypes of headaches. Fortunately, 95% of the time headaches are just that, headaches; they are not caused by a more serious underlying illness, such as brain cancer; a small percentage of headaches are caused by tumors that inflame the arteries around the brain.

           There are three main types of headaches. Tension headaches have a dull pain usually around the forehead and/or temples. Migraine headaches usually occur on one side of the head, and can cause severe pain. Cluster headaches also often occur on one side of the side, around one eye, and manifest as a stabbing sensation. Migraine headaches usually affect women, while cluster headaches usually affect men. Many holistic practitioners feel that stress causes most headaches by muscle tension in the head, shoulders, and upper back. Other holistic practitioners theorize that tension headaches may often be caused by abnormal blood clotting. Most causes of headache are from allergies, fatigue, or emotional disorders, all three of which are associated with stress. Other causes of headache can include: skeletal misalignments, hypothyroidism, premenstrual syndrome, and side effects of certain medications.

            One of the main problems for controlling chronic headaches are the mistakes headache sufferers make in trying to treat their problem. Overuse of pain medication for headaches may cause even more pain after the medication is stopped. These headaches are called rebound headaches. Eating chocolate is also a popular remedy for controlling pain-related illnesses such as headaches. Although chocolate has a good amount of the mineral magnesium, which helps migraine symptoms, it also contains a chemical called phenylethylamine, which can cause headaches. Both chocolate and caffeine may help or worsen headaches, depending on the person and their immediate environment. This illustrates the complexity of dealing with chronic illnesses, and the importance of each person dealing with an illness having to experiment a little with different treatments.

           Drugs are often used to treat headaches. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a common pain reliever for headaches. Side effects can include liver damage. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen are also very commonly used to help the pain of headaches. Side effects of NSAIDS include liver and kidney problems, severe allergic reactions in certain people, and possible heart problems. The steroid prednisone is sometimes used to treat cluster headaches. Side effects of this drug can include: cancer, insomnia, depression, psychosis, heart failure, high blood pressure, ulcers, liver problems, convulsions, cataracts and/or glaucoma, allergic reactions, and multiple drug interactions.

            There are a few supplements that can significantly help headaches. A combination of calcium and vitamin D can reduce the frequency of headaches. Supplementing with vitamin B6 may help lessen headaches. This vitamin helps to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which is involved in the regulation of pain. However, some drugs that help migraine headaches block serotonin activity, so supplementation with B6 could in theory worsen headaches in some people.

            There are a couple of herbs that appear to be both safe and effective for treating headaches. The herb black cohosh is an effective pain reliever and can be used for headaches. Do not use Black Cohosh for more than one month at a time, and do not use if you are on estrogen-replacement therapy, chemo-therapy, are on medications for high blood pressure, or taking sedatives, heart medications, have severe allergies or asthma, or if you are pregnant or nursing. White willow bark can be used as a natural alternative to aspirin. White willow bark cannot be use with synthetic aspirin or other NSAIDS such as ibuprofen. Pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, hemophiliacs, asthmatics, and people with ulcers should avoid use of white willow bark.

            Some additional tips for controlling headaches: consider acupressure. Maintain good posture. Practice deep breathing. Drinking purified or spring water can help some people get rid of their headaches. Eat several small meals throughout the day. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Get exercise at least three times a week, however, if exercise worsens your headache, notify your physician. Massage, relaxation techniques, meditation, biofeedback, and acupuncture may all help in the long-term treatment of chronic headaches. Chronic headache sufferers may want to get their red blood cell levels checked, since anemia (low red blood cell levels) is linked to certain headaches. Also, over one-third of headache sufferers say that alcohol intake is a main factor in causing their headache, and over half of migraine sufferers also point to alcohol as a culprit.

Dr. Jensen provides science-based holistic health care and guidance. He can advise you on specific problems you are experiencing, or help you create a comprehensive health care plan for optimum health.

Dr. Jensen will provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and suggest a course of action.

Contact Dr. Jensen at 1-800-390-5365 or use the contact form.

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