Headaches can be a real pain in the neck…and well, in the head and with up to 70% of people suffering from headaches during their lives it is becoming one of the most prevalent conditions today.
Some of the most common presentations include migraines, cervicogenic and tension type headaches but there is an enormous list of causative factors that could stimulate the onset of a headache, this is perhaps why they can be difficult to treat and prevent long term.
‘Triggers’ for headaches can range from foods to medication, stress levels to poor hydration hence why treatment of persistent headaches must be looked at on a case-by-case basis with a holistic approach for long term management to be truly effective.
Below we are going to look at some of the more common headache presentations and a few tips on how to manage them. However, it is important to note that because of the individual nature of each headache and due to the fact that there are so many potential causes an in depth examination and investigation should be carried out in order to truly understand the root cause of the problem.
Up there with the most debilitating of headaches and perhaps the one which we know the least about. There are multiple theories on why and how migraines present and cause us pain but nothing concrete has so far been established, this gives us scope to help address the symptoms of migraine but makes it difficult to completely address the cause.
Typically described as a single sided, severe, throbbing headache the migraine can also give rise to nausea, vomiting, visual changes, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and photosensitivity (sensitive to light). They can be particularly disabling and can last for hours on end.
Reducing overall stimulation and inflammation is one way to address some of these symptoms, try sitting in a dark, silent room with no phone or laptop and relax for a period of time. Reducing your intake of sugar and other inflammatory stimulants such as coffee, red meat and dairy can also aid in recovery, as well as beefing up on the good stuff, green leafy vegetables, plenty of water and potentially some supplements like magnesium, vitamin C and ginger/turmeric (all have great healing and muscle relaxant properties).
Cervicogenic and Tension Headaches
We see and treat this a lot! Cervicogenic headaches simply mean a headache referred from your cervical spine (or neck). Stress or strain of the neuromuscular components within your cervical spine can very readily cause headaches. Making sure your neck is moving comfortably through its full range of movement and the associated muscles are all working well is integral in treating and managing this type of headache.
Once the neck itself has been addressed it is extremely important to work on the adjacent areas, as commonly these are the underlying cause of cervical issues, these include the thoracic and lumbar spine, ribcage (front and back) and shoulder complexes. Common postural compensations and movement restrictions that are a by-product of our computer/desk based lifestyle can easily cause issues within our cervical spine.
While some people have a better posture than others when sitting at a desk, the best way for anyone to prevent built up tension in their neck and shoulders is to get up and move as much as possible throughout the day. Slow and smooth stretches will help keep the muscles relaxed, so nothing too jarring.
Regular, postural treatment can help also, whether you get this from manual therapy, massage or a session in the gym, find something that works for you and make sure to follow up with maintenance treatment.
The Christmas period is a most joyous time of year, festive lights, food, ice rinks and Christmas trees in every window dominate the landscape. However, occasionally our heightened levels of jolliness and thirst for frivolity (and mulled wine) can leave us feeling a little worse for wear. So, this festive season, if you happen to feel like Santa slightly miscalculated and dropped his weighty sack of presents squarely on your head rather than beneath your bauble-adorned tree, you might want to carry on reading.
The Science behind a Bloody Mary
One of the more common ‘hangover treatments’ is drinking a tomato juice laden ‘Bloody Mary’ and believe it or not there is actually a scientific reason behind this polarising beverage. The tomato is one of the most efficient foods at oxidising some by-products from the fermentation process that cause all sorts of health complications, including nausea, blood pressure decreases and hangover headaches! One of the fundamentals of complimentary therapy is also to ‘treat like with like’ therefore, if you are suffering from an alcohol induced headache, in theory a sip of alcohol first thing should sort you out.
An obvious one (hopefully!). It is very easy to forget about drinking water when you are constantly consuming alcohol, seems ridiculous that you even have to, after all beer is 95% water isn’t it?
Well yes, yes it is. But it’s not actually that simple, because of the effect that alcohol has on your hormone levels. When alcohol is present in the bloodstream it causes us to excrete more urine than usual, this is because it surpasses the output of a special hormone known as ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) which normally acts to prevent us from urinating. When we are dehydrated the body pumps out more and more ADH to assist us in retaining as much water as we can, alcohol slows down this process resulting in an increase in urine production = further dehydration. To help reduce the effects of dehydration it’s important to load up on water before during and after a night out!
As a disclaimer there is no amount of water you can drink that will offset the effects of alcohol during this process, the only way to do that is drink less of the stuff.
James Shanahan M.Ost