There are many different causes of headaches, but the two main types are tension and migraine. The triggers and treatments of the two share some characteristics, but are not alike.
Tension headaches usually result from tension in the muscles of the face, scalp, neck or shoulders in response to anxiety or stress. The muscles squeeze the nerves and constrict the blood supply which causes pain and pressure.
Tension can be triggered by eyestrain, grinding of teeth, too much light or noise, poor posture, stress, among other things. The pain is usually dull and steady. . . feels as if there is a band squeezing the head, and usually accompanied with tension in the neck and shoulders.
Migraine headaches throb when blood vessels in the head expand more than normal, usually in response to food allergies, hormonal changes, stress, among other things.
Migraines are typically characterized by pounding, throbbing, debilitating pain on one side of the head, with or without visual disturbances and sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Migraine pain can last for hours or days.
Natural Remedies For Tension Headaches
1. Self massage and acupressure can help. There are two key points for reducing the pain. The first being the web between the forefinger and thumb. Squeeze there until you feel pain. The second point is under the bony ridges at the back of the neck. Using both thumbs apply pressure.
2. Sleeping on your stomach or in an awkward position can cause the muscles in your neck to contract and trigger a headache. Sleeping on your back with a rolled towel under your neck helps.
3. Give your face and scalp a workout. Make intense faces by raising your eyebrows, squinting your eyes, frowning, yawning and wrinkling your nose. Squeeze quickly, hold briefly, then relax.
4. Soon as you feel the tension in your temples, sip on a cup of herbal white willow bark tea. It contains the active ingredient in aspirin - salicylic acid. Using one teaspoon of dried willow bark to one cup of boiling water, let steep for five to ten minutes, strain and sip while it is warm.
5. For fast relief, simply rub a 10% peppermint oil solution into the temples and forehead along with a dose of acetaminophen. The combination of the two will bring relief faster.
6. Relaxation of the neck and shoulder muscles is the best way to relieve tension headaches. Learning to relax the trapezius muscles reduces the intensity and duration of a headache by half.
7. If you rely on over the counter medicine you can cause headache rhythms that can only be controlled by increasing the doses. Long term use of these medicines on a regular basis makes you vulnerable to “rebound" potential. Not to mention that they may cause nausea and other side effects that may be worse than the headache.
8. Evening primrose oil helps to dilate the blood vessels easing tension headaches. Take 500 milligram capsules two to three times a day.
9. Skullcap helps ease tension headaches. Drink up to 3 cups of tea daily OR use commercial supplements following package directions. Skullcap is best taken after a meal.
Natural Remedies For Migraine Headaches
1. Tying a cloth around your head (headband style) will decrease blood flow to the scalp and lessen the throbbing and pounding of a migraine.
2. Many migraine and tension headaches stem from a slight deficiency of magnesium . If this is your cause, magnesium oxide supplements should bring relief. Take 250 to 400 milligram doses, three times a day. Start low and increase as needed. **NOTE** Magnesium supplements should not be taken by anyone with kidney trouble.
3. Feverfew may reduce frequency and intensity of headaches. Take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of fluid extract three times daily -OR- take tablets or capsules following package directions.
4. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory agent that can be effective for treating a migraine. Take 500 milligram capsules 4 times a day -OR- 100 to 200 milligrams of standardized extract 3 times a day for prevention or every two hours (no more than 6 times a day) to treat acute migraines.
5. Valerian reduces stress and eases headache pain. Make a decoction using 2 teaspoons dried root in 8 ounces of boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup daily as needed.
6. SAMe may help in the prevention of a migraine, however, long term treatment is required for significant benefits. Use a commercial product following package directions. Be patient, it may take up to six weeks before results are apparent.
7. 5-HTP raises serotonin levels and helps relieve headaches. Several studies have shown excellent results with 5-HTP in the treatment of both tension and migraine headaches. Take 100 to 200 milligrams three times daily.
When To Get Help
Headaches can be warning signs of serious health problems; such as, meningitis, encephalitis or brain abnormalities.
If a headache follows a head injury or immediately after a sudden cough or sneeze, occurs each morning along with nausea or accompanied by fever, stiff neck, lethargy or vomiting, call the doctor.
Also call the doctor if headaches become more severe over time or occur once a week or more, have changed location or are accompanied by neurological symptoms such as numbness, dizziness, blurred vision or memory loss.