Headaches are among the most common medical complaints. They can arise from numerous causes, including stress, eyestrain, hunger, dehydration, underlying infections or blood vessel disturbances in the head.
As they are so common, often troubling us at the most inconvenient of times, it’s important to understand headaches; the reasons they may occur, how to ease the pain and how to prevent them from happening in the future.
Types of Headaches and Causes
The most common headaches are those caused by muscle tension in the head, neck or shoulders, usually due to fatigue, stress or over-exercising.
A tension headache is often accompanied by a feeling of tightness around the head, along with weakness or fatigue, and may worsen with a sudden movement.
Migraine headaches, discerned by a throbbing sensation above one or both of the eyes, can cause excruciating pain, distortions in sensory perception and episodes of complete debility lasting days or even weeks.
Intensely painful headaches, often similar to migraines but felt around the head, can occur after a serious illness involving impaired circulation to the brain.
Other common causes of headaches include infections of the ears, sinuses or mouth, high blood pressure, glaucoma, allergies, brain tumours or abscesses, some drugs and various foods especially those containing the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG).
As a rule of thumb, you should seek medical attention for headaches that follow head injuries or for severe headaches that appear very suddenly.
You should also consult a health-care provider if you have the following symptoms: blurred vision, confusion, fever and neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, pressure in the sinuses, a pounding heartbeat or pressure behind the eyes that is relieved by vomiting.
Natural Remedies for Headaches
Thankfully, there is a wide choice of natural remedies in our arsenal that we can apply to prevent headaches as they occur and before they arise.
These range from quick, simple fixes to good nutrition, as well as various things to be aware of, such as our posture and sleep.
Quick and Simple Fixes
For a reduction in headache pain, apply a light coating of lavender or peppermint oil to the forehead (and neck if there is pain at the back of the head).
A cold washcloth or gel, applied to the source of pain on the head, can also help ease discomfort.
If you feel a headache coming on, drink a large glass of water every 3 hours until symptoms subside. With the busyness of day-to-day life, forgetting to hydrate is one of the most common causes of recurring headaches.
Drinking ginger tea, made by simply bringing a piece of ginger to the boil, also prevents headaches related to premenstrual tension.
Naturally, headaches are associated with pressure points and you can help ease headache pain by pressing the point at the end of your index finger between the thumb and index finger of either hand. If you press the point on your right hand, use the thumb of your left hand to hold the pressure – in a lot of cases the headache will be relieved within 5 minutes of holding the point.
Vitamin B6, Magnesium and 5-HTP
Poor nutrition can come at the cost of frequent headaches, however making sure that we maintain a healthy intake of vitamin B6, magnesium and 5-HTP is proven to boost healthy chemical production in the brain and lessen headaches in the long run.
Vitamin B6 aids energy production within the blood vessels supplying the brain, supporting them and also helping to avoid constriction – a catalyst for painful headaches.
Taking magnesium will also help, as magnesium helps the blood vessels prevent constriction as well as over-excitement of the brain cells. Magnesium-rich foods that you can easily incorporate in your diet include seeds, nuts, almonds and bananas.
Similarly, 5-HTP is useful in treating chronic headaches in children and adults, particularly headaches associated with sleep disturbance. Foods rich in 5-HTP include spinach, seeds and bananas, as well as white meat.
Important Things to Be Aware of
If you experience recurrent headaches, keep a diary of all foods eaten for several days to discern if any specific food or foods are causing the problem. As an example, chocolate and coffee are two foods renowned for causing severe headaches.
Over-exercising, or exertion, can lead to headaches, so make sure to make a note of any throbbing or pulsing headaches that arise during or after exercise. It’s also worth seeing your healthcare provider to rule out heart problems.
For those with blood sugar complications, snacking and eating smaller meals between large meals can help to prevent headaches. Simple and organic high-protein snacks that help to provide a long-lasting full feeling include almonds, watercress, parsley, fennel and cheese.
Last but not least, it’s equally important to maintain good posture throughout the day (by lifting your chin and protracting your chest to align the neck and spine) and to sleep sufficiently each night. As our brains need to recharge, poor sleep is a quick route to mental fatigue and recurrent headaches.
Headaches are common and unavoidable, afflicting all of us at some point due to the many causes from which they arise, but thankfully there are just as many simple ways to prevent them from happening both to ourselves and to our loved ones.
For intensely painful and persistent headaches or migraines, remember to consult your medical doctor or healthcare provider, as these may be associated with more serious conditions or illnesses that will need addressing separately.
For common and infrequent headaches, however, the various natural remedies that we have at our disposal offer easy solutions that we can use to take care of unwanted headache pain as we go about day-to-day life.
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