The most common cause of headaches is muscular tension, brought on by either stress or poor posture. Other causes include over-indulgence in food or alcohol, food intolerances, allergies, caffeine withdrawal, dental problems, eye strain and sinus infection. Adjusting your diet or posture can help to prevent some of these headaches, as may the therapies discussed below. You should consult your doctor if you have persistent or recurrent headaches, or headaches that come and go in sudden attacks.
Tension headaches may be prevented or alleviated by yoga, t'ai chi and the Alexander technique - therapies that relieve stress and promote physical relaxation. They will also help headaches that are caused by bad posture.
Belladonna For throbbing headaches that are exacerbated by being in the sun or I by stooping.
Ignatia For congestive, throbbing headaches, with occasional pain extending to the eyes or to the sinus area, and possibly accompanied by feelings of grief.
Nux vomica For a hangover headache or a headache associated with nausea.
When headaches are due to digestive problems, emotional disturbances, allergies or muscular tension, acupuncture may help.
Headaches may result from musculoskeletal disorders, particularly if the vertebrae or the cranial bones have become misaligned. An osteopath will restore the vertebrae to their correct positions and may make minute adjustments to the bones of the skull.
Headaches and migraines sometimes coincide with eating a certain type of food or following a particular eating pattern. According to naturopathic principles, adjusting your diet or eating habits may bring relief from these types of headache.
Sensitivity to particular foods is one cause of headaches. Many individuals come to realize that eating any of the four `C's' - cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits or caffeine - triggers a migraine. If you have experienced headaches in response to a food, try eliminating that food from your diet for a period of a month. If your headaches become less frequent or less severe, continue to avoid the food for another two months and then try reintroducing it in small amounts to see whether your tolerance has improved.
Naturopaths say that eating too little or eating infrequently can also cause headaches. This is because the level of sugar in the blood becomes too low or it alternates between being high and low. Headaches that occur when you miss a meal - particularly breakfast - or when you eat a lot of sugary foods are likely to be due to fluctuating blood sugar levels. You can help yourself by eating frequent small meals. If you usually skip breakfast, snack on carbohydrate foods and eat large meals later on in the day, you should completely revise your eating habits - eat a substantial breakfast and up to six small meals throughout the day.
FOODS THAT MAY CAUSE HEADACHES
Some foods contain compounds that dilate blood vessels in the head, stimulating pain-sensitive nerve endings and causing headaches. Food additives, or additives used in some processed foods may also trigger headaches.
Coffee and Tea
Drinking, or abruptly cutting back on, caffeinated beverages are causes of headaches
Oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes contain a natural chemical thought to precipitate migraine.
All alcohol, but red wine and port in particular, are notorious for causing headaches and migraines
Caffeine and other compounds in chocolate have been found to precipitate and aggravate headaches
Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound found in cheese that is associated with migraine
ADDING FIBER TO YOUR DIET
Some people find that they suffer from headaches when they are constipated. For relief, eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, as well as while grain foods, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and noodles, rolled oat porridge and wheat bran. Make dietary changes gradually, your intestines may take a few weeks to adjust to the extra fiber.
At the first sign of a headache, stop what you're doing and, if possible, lie down in a dark, quiet room with an ice bag or a cold pack on your forehead for 30 to 45 minutes.
Relax. Ask someone to massage your neck, shoulders and upper back; take a long, leisurely hot bath; do relaxation exercises.
Take paracetamol. To prevent a rebound headache, don't use too much or continue taking it after the pain is gone.
As long as the pain persists, eat very lightly and abstain from alcoholic drinks.
To identify and remove the cause of recurring headaches, keep a record of the date and time of each occurrence, what you were doing, what foods or beverages you had consumed and any recent change in habits.
Even though most headaches are not serious, seek medical help if yours doesn't respond to simple self-treatment; if it includes a stiff neck or facial soreness; if it's accompanied by other symptoms or follows an accident or injury; or if it's piercing or localised.