by Neva J Howell
If you’re alive, you’ve probably had a headache at least once in your life. Headaches seem to be a universal thing. You most probably have experienced a tension headache, from stress, or the kind of intense but fleeting headache that comes from eating something cold too fast. However, did you know that there are at least 18 different causes of headaches?
We can get headaches from caffeine, indigestion, stress, alcohol, food allergies (MSG is a big culprit here and is disguised in many of the foods we eat), eyestrain, fever, over-exertion, dehydration, hunger, hypertension, sinuses, menstrual problems, TMJ, muscle tension, allergic reaction to perfumes, cleaning products, car fumes, etc., infected teeth, oral contraceptives, improperly fitting eyeglasses, outdated eyeglass or contact prescriptions, or an injury to the head.
Additionally, headache can come from congestion or imbalance in other parts of the body. For example, headaches at the temple may be related to TMJ, or temporal mandibular joint disfunction.
If the pain runs from the left shoulder up over the cranium to the left eye, gall bladder congestion may be a factor whereas liver congestion will sometimes manifest in headaches in the crown area.
Another form of congestion or imbalance in the body that can cause headaches, along with a host of other problems over time, is an overly acidic ph level.
And yet another cause of headaches - menopause. I didn't know this til I became perimenopausal myself and started reading posts on a menopause message board. Though this is one symptom I haven't yet experienced, it is apparently quite common in menopausal women.
As a wellness counselor, one of the first things I like to know regardless of the type of health challenge is how regular elimination is for that person. Constipation can definitely cause headaches, along with a host of other problems over time. If you are not having two to three regular bowel movements per day, you are constipated.
I’d like to briefly discuss the most common type, tension headaches, and suggest some ways of working to manage tension headaches holistically. However, whenever frequent and unexplained headaches occur, it is always wise to seek medical attention, to rule out any underlying physical problem. Also, if you are under a doctor’s care for any known condition, you should always check with your chosen healthcare professional before adding anything new to your daily regimen. It is my hope that you have chosen a natural medicines practitioner or a doctor willing to work with one to find the right combination of natural and allopathic options for your optimal health.
Tension headaches can be caused by quite a few things, most of them stress-related. Physical, mental or emotional stress can cause a tension headache. Poor posture, for example, is one physical factor. Emotional stress, unresolved anger, worry and anxiety, depression and resistance to change can also trigger a tension headache. In addition, some food allergies can cause them. Rhythmic and relaxing movement, such as Qigong may prove beneficial.
One note on food allergies: in the eyes of an enzyme therapist, a food allergy is simply a food your body does not have sufficient enzyme capacity to assimilate. I am a firm believer in enzyme therapy for helping the body correct food allergies naturally.
So what can we do about tension headaches? Well, the number one suggestion I have is STRESS REDUCTION, whatever it takes. The truth is that a lot of us, in today’s fast paced world have become so accustomed to living in stress that we don’t even realize when it has become damaging to our system. So, in order to reduce it, we first have to become more aware of it’s effect. We do this simply by noticing our body.
Breathing is effected by stress so stop right now and see how you are breathing. If your breath is short and shallow or kind of “catches” at any point in the in/out cycle, you are stressed. Your breathing should be slow, rhythmic and deep. If you are continually breathing in a shallow way, you are not getting enough oxygen to your body and this can cause a headache, along with all kinds of little problems that, over time, can become big problems for you sytem.
Another way to begin to notice the effects of stress is to pay more attention to your physical body when you are in a “more than normal” stress situation. Some things you may notice: a tightening of the muscles in the solar plexus area, a constriction to the throat, changes in your heartbeat or an increase in pulse, muscle pain or spasm, and even momentary blurred vision or dizziness. When we are so focused on what is causing the stress, we can will ourselves not to notice what it is doing to our bodies. However, the good news is that we can also will ourselves to begin to notice.
After you tune in and see that something is stressing your body, then you need to learn to take immediate steps to counteract the stress. How? Deepen your breathing. Focus on constricted areas of tight muscles and mentally send a message for them to relax and let go. Step away from the immediate stressful situation, if at all possible, even for just five minutes, to get yourself calmed and centered.
Helpful stress reduction exercises:
1. Get out into nature. Take a walk. Hug a tree. Put your bare feet on the ground or, better still, in running water. Nature has a way of calming us, bringing our rhythm closer to the rhythm of the Earth.
2. Pray. No matter what your spiritual path, if you have a belief in Universal Life Force energy, you can find help in letting go of excess stress through pray to the God of your knowing. Enlist spiritual help.
3. Drink more water and more often. Water is vital to the normal function of our system, including our ability to handle stress. So drink more during stressful times. Wat
4. Take a good colloidial mineral I find that colloidial minerals are amazing during stressful times, to help my body come back to balance. They have often helped with cramping and muscle spasms when applied topically, as well.
5. Infuse essential oils or just keep a favorite with you to sniff. Pure, therapeutic essential oils (and it does matter a lot that they are pure and distilled at low heat, slowly!) when breathed in through the nasal passages, can affect our emotional state within 3 seconds! Nothing works faster. I like lavendar for relaxation and peppermint for those times when I need to be more alert.
Massage, foot reflexology and Reiki are also just absolutely wonderful for a body under stress. Many of us consider getting a massage to be some kind of luxury but I’ve come to the conclusion that most of us need regular body work to remain at a level of energetic health. Some of you may not even know what foot reflexology is or what it does, but I think you will be amazed if you ever have a session. I find a good reflexology treatment almost as relaxing as a full body massage but it takes less time and usually costs less too so it may be an alternative when finances are tight or time is short. I encourage you to make your health enough of a priority to get regular help from a good body-worker. Reiki is a form of energy healing work that is also profoundly relaxing and I find that my mind is far better equipped to deal with a traumatic or mentally stressful time when I have a Reiki session. Most everyone is familiar with the benefits of massage, I believe, but if you are unfamiliar with Reiki and foot reflexology, there is information at http://www.healthynewage.com/healing.html
Note for Migraine Sufferers: As a spiritual healer, I've found in every instance of migraine that the onset was event-related. In other words, some trauma or disturbing, stressful event preceded the first episode. The events seem often to be ego-related, and by that I mean they are associated with the person's sense of who they are. I see migraines coming on after a divorce, for example, when one has to start over and redefine what they want from life. Also, when dealing with disapproving parents, as in the case of the homosexual who finally faces his or her choices with their parents and the outcome is not positive. Having seen this correlation so many times in my work, I feel there is a physical-emotional connection in a lot of cases and getting the proper emotional help can often assist in releasing the migraine cycle. Of course, there are other medical reasons a migraine may happen so this information is not intended to replace any medical attention which may be needed.
Migraine relief tip: Try placing a cool cloth on the forehead, and putting the feet in hot water at the same time.