Headaches are so common we tend to dismiss them as an annoyance, rather than a condition that needs serious treatment. However, a headache, like any pain, is the body's way of telling you something's wrong. Another myth is that a headache is a disease. It is not. A headache is a symptom of a larger problem, one that you need to investigate.
Let's explore some types of headaches, their causes and when you should be alarmed. Let's also look at the many natural alternatives to aspirin and other medication for treating this commonplace, but not necessarily benign pain.
So Many Headaches
The cause of headaches is vast. Daily tension explains most aching temples. But infections like the flu, brain tumors, head injuries, sun exposure, high blood pressure or conditions of the ears, throat, eyes, nose or teeth can also lead to headaches. Sometimes taking a medication, particularly birth control pills, can make your head ache. If this (or any other unusual symptoms) occurs, call your doctor or pharmacist.
You may suffer from cluster headaches. These vascular headaches tend to be intense and one-sided. They usually begin during sleep and causes the affected eye to redden and water, while the nostril drops.
Many women are afflicted with menstrual headaches each month, sometimes migraines and often premenstrual. The homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla may help if the pain moves around, accompanies nausea, vomiting and other digestive discomforts, feels better with pressure and you feel weepy yet desire company. The best way to eliminate PMS-headaches is by treating the PMS. Often these headaches accompany food cravings, fatigue, and dizziness. General PMS therapies like avoiding alcohol and stabilizing blood sugar may also help (The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 1987, vol 32.)
Hunger or low blood sugar also sparks headaches and can include irritability, sweating, dizziness, nausea and confusion. If you suspect your headaches are due to hypoglycemia or irregular eating habits, frequent small meals high in complex carbohydrates and protein should bring relief. Cut out sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol.
Some living situations can directly cause headaches. Sudden headaches that occur after the first cold snap may indicate poisoning from a leaky gas furnace. Pollution sickens some people. Constipation, another headache trigger, often resolves with a high-fiber, low-fat diet and managed stress. In the meantime, peppermint tea with its anti-gas, nerve-calming, spasm-relaxing, anti-nausea, pain-relieving actions calms most digestive headaches.
Food (and other) allergies may promote headaches. A poor diet brimming with salt, sugar and fat increases physical stress which can in turn elicit a tension headache. Caffeine drinkers, for instance, tend to have more headaches than non-users (International Journal of Epidemiology, 1985, vol 14.) Yet caffeine has a paradoxical effect. Trying to kick the habit, usually leads to caffeine-withdrawal headaches.
Physical problems, like poor posture, can cause headaches. Throbbing linked with eye pain could point to new or different glasses. Headache and jaw pain could be TMJ; visit a dentist acquainted with this problem.
Most common is the muscular contraction or tension headache. It begins as a dull, steady ache at the back of your head, moving across the forehead to the temples. Very tight muscles feel like a band squeezing your head. Neck, scalp or shoulder muscles are tender, even excruciating.