Research has shown that 3,000 headaches occur every day per million people in the general population. This equates to over 190,000 headaches every day in the UK.
The Migraine Trust states that migraines are the third most common disease in the world, with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (that’s around 1 in 7 people).
So, if you suffer with a headache or a migraine – what can you do?
Let’s start by looking at the different types:
Tension Headaches, which are the most common type, are usually caused by either muscle contractions or chronic tension in the head and neck region. Many different things can cause these muscles contractions including poor posture, foods, starring at a computer screen for too long or prolonged driving.
Cluster Headaches affect more men than women. They have more of a pattern and typically occur in groups or cycles. Researchers have found a strong link between levels of the hormones melatonin and cortisol to be the causes of many cluster headaches.
Migraines are characterised by a severe, throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Other symptoms are often associated with migraines, such as nausea, sensitivity to light and ‘stars in your eyes’.
Common migraine triggers include:
– Bright lights
– Emotional stress, anxiety or depression
– Foods containing tyramine (e.g. red wine, smoked fish, chicken livers), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or aspartame
– Tiredness and poor posture
– Nutrient deficiencies
– Undiagnosed silent viruses
– Bad gut bacteria (e.g. candida and yeast overgrowth)
– Toxic stressors (e.g. heavy metals in your system)
– Hormonal triggers (e.g. menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, and menopause)
– Medication (e.g. sleeping tablets, the contraceptive pill, and hormone replacement therapy)
What treatments are available?
It’s important to identify which type of headache you are suffering from before you treat it. Mild tension headaches can usually be treated with some common types of over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatories. More debilitating headaches, such as migraines, require stronger prescription medication.
Unfortunately, many of these medications can have side-effects like constipation, heartburn, an upset stomach, drowsiness, vision problems and nausea, and long-term use can have a negative effect on the liver.
Many people suffering from headaches show on the Asyra test to have low magnesium levels. It’s a natural muscle relaxant so can be effective for tension type headaches. Try taking a daily supplement.
3) Peppermint & Lavender Essential Oil
These oils both have calming and numbing properties.
Peppermint oil cools the skin and stimulates skin blood flow in the forehead. It also has the ability to ease muscle contractions. Lavender oil is commonly used as a mood regulator and sedative. Much research has now shown it to be an effective treatment of migraines.
One study conducted in 2012 measured the results of inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes. The 47 participants were asked to record the effects every half hour, for two hours. Out of 129 headache attacks, 92 responded to the lavender oil remedy.
The best way to use these oils is to place a few drops of peppermint or lavender into your hands and massage the blend into your forehead, temples and back of neck. If the smell is too strong for you or the peppermint is to cold on the skin then you can dilute them with oils such as grapeseed oil, almond oil or coconut oil.
Many tension type headaches can be directly linked to prolonged sitting at a desk or poor posture. Also, with the use of smart phones and tablets, the typical hunched over position can put an extra 10-15 kilograms of pressure on your neck!
Regularly stretching your neck and shoulders, and stretching your chest out between a doorway 30 seconds at a time, several times a day, can be very effective.
5) Drink water
Dehydration can contribute to all type of headaches. Drinks such as coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol are dehydrating. Most people in the UK don’t drink enough water, especially in the winter months. Water is free and has so many more benefits than just helping to reduce headaches. It can also energize us and keep us feeling full. The high water content of fruits and vegetables can be another great way of hydrating ourselves.
It is important to note that these natural solutions don’t work for everyone, simply because every headache and migraine is caused by something different. So, finding the cause is always the first step – and it will help you prevent them from ever returning!