Headaches are one of the most common ailments. No matter your age, gender or health status, you’re likely to be plagued with these occasionally. Headaches generally fall into three categories: cluster, tension and migraine. Knowing which type of headache plagues you will help you find a treatment.
• Cluster headaches generally affect one side of the head and can cause intense pain for a few days before disappearing and reappearing later.
• Tension headaches are often described as creating a “tight band” of pain around the head. Tension headaches are often accompanied by pressure or a feeling of throbbing in the head or neck. The pain can be mild to moderate, changing with intensity during the day.
• Migraine headaches cause severe pain, usually one just one side of the head. Migraine headaches are characterized by impaired vision, sensitivity to light and nausea.
If you’re used to popping an aspirin every time a headache springs up, consider the dangers of taking over-the-counter painkillers—and consider one of these natural approaches instead.
Magnesium can be relaxing to the nervous system and can help relieve migraine headaches and prevent tension headaches. While you can take 200 mg of magnesium two to three times daily, magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, so consider taking an Epsom salt bath for headaches that won’t go away.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that our bodies create and then turn into serotonin. Many headache drugs work by affecting serotonin, and preliminary research shows that taking 5-HTP might help prevent migraine and tension headaches. Serotonin affects circulation in the brain and can help increase levels of endorphins—natural painkillers—in the body. Take 50 to 100 mg three times daily. 5-HTP should not be combined with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
Capsaicin, an active compound in cayenne peppers, can help relieve pain by interfering with the transmission of pain signals between the brain and the body. Try rubbing a bit of capsaicin cream on the inside of your nostrils to relieve pain from migraine headaches.
Cut out processed foods. Food additives MSG (monosodium gluatamate), nitrates (found in processed meats) and artificial sweetener Aspartame have all been linked to headaches. To reduce your chances of getting a headache, stick with whole foods. For more on dangerous food additives, check out the article “5 Most Toxic Food Additives to Avoid.”
Keep a headache diary. It’s easier to find a cure for your headache if you can track when and where they occur, as well as what kind. When you feel a headache coming on, make a note of the day and time, as well as what you’ve had to eat within the past 24 hours, how long (and well) you slept the night before, and other details such as any unusual stress or circumstances in your life. Once the headache has passed, record how long it lasted, where the pain occurred and what techniques you used to make it stop.
Acupuncture or acupressure can help with pain relief from all three types of headaches. Acupuncture involves inserting very tiny needles at strategic points on the body to relieve pain. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but does not use needles. To find an acupuncturist near you, visit the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Massage can also relieve pain from tension headaches.
Practice good posture. Poor posture can trigger all three types of headaches, but sitting up straight can help keep strain off your muscles and prevent them from tensing up.
For more natural solutions, check out the post “Natural Headache and Migraine Relief.”
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