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Most everyone suffers a headache at least occasionally. About 10 % of us report having migraine headaches. Headaches are the 7th most common reason for seeking medical care. Chiropractors report that second to low back pain headache sufferers are the most common patients seeking our care. There are several types of headaches, and primary headaches include tension, migraine and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches include hormonal, sinus, hypertension or even meningitis. Other headaches are caused by localized nerve pain to the head and upper neck, most typically helped by chiropractic adjustments.

The most common headaches are called tension headaches and are caused by physical or emotional stress. There is a tightening or spasm of the muscle in the back of the neck, often radiating into the shoulders. As covered in my previous articles addressing stress and the effects on the adrenal glands there are many ways of elimination the affects the stress has on the body. Life style changes can prevent these types of headaches. Firstly, moderate but consistent exercise such as a brisk 20-30 minute walk several times a week would be essential. All aerobic exercise would be helpful; swimming, dancing, ball-playing etc. Numerous studies show exercise reduces anxiety and depression. Emotional release techniques such as NET or EFT or bio-feedback can be practiced. Body work techniques ranging from massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, acu-puncture, reflexology are all recommended.

Migraines are the second most common type of headache, with 18-24% of women and 6-9% of men having these headaches in the U.S. Migraines are typically more severe than tension headaches and are accompanied with extreme nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. They are often preceded by an “aura” type feeling with throbbing pain usually on one side of the head. There are headache clinics in many major hospitals and they have not determined a sole reason for migraines. Most findings lead to either hormonal imbalance especially by women, and food allergies/sensitivities. Certain foods are known to trigger migraines such as red wine, smoked foods and chocolate. Other foods on an individualized basis can be the trigger and this can be determined by allergy testing such as IgG or ALCOT testing. I have been using muscle-response-testing for food or other allergies with very good results. There are effective methods for preventing migraines. Like in all issues preventing is easier than treating once on is suffering. Several studies show a decrease in migraine attacks when using the herb Butterbar. Another well researched herb for prevention is Feverfew. In a study published in July 2011, people suffering from migraine were given feverfew with ginger. At 2 hours 63% of subjects in the test group were pain free or had a mild headache. The B vitamin ribolflavin, B2, has also been studied and has migraine prophylaxis and treatment. Lastly, the mineral magnesium is also helpful as a muscle relaxer and migraine preventer. I sell a product called Migrelief that combines feverfew, B2 and magnesium.

A third primary headache is called a cluster headache. They are rarer, and can be more intense than a migraine but usually short-lived. They occur in an individual less frequently sometimes coming and then disappearing for months or years. Cluster headaches affect mostly men, and more often in Afro-Americans. Cigarette smoke and alcohol can be a trigger. The pain is severe and usually on one side of the head or behind one eye. Other physical symptoms include tearing, swelling and redness of one eye, nasal discharge and other one-sided facial symptoms. Since no known cause is implicated no particular solutions are offered. One reported treatment, reported in the journal called Pain, showed success when applying capsaicin (cayenne pepper extract) intra-nasally. Melatonin has been studied with some success in the treatment of cluster headaches as well. Another study cited in the journal Headache reported anecdotal evidence of cluster headache relief using kudzu which is an Asian herb.

Secondary headaches might be caused by dental issues, visual issues, sinus issues or nutritional issues as simple as dehydration. In women hormonal imbalances can lead to regular headaches and migraines.

As a holistic doctor I am in a good position to diagnose and treat most headaches. I work with other professionals such as bio-feedback experts and allergists when helpful. I teach my patients diverse techniques to prevent headaches, and also pressure points and supplements to use once a headache has hit.