Headache Advice

Various factors can play a role in instigating or exacerbating your headaches and that sometimes you can benefit from simple changes. Research has shown that following can be factors:

Diet

Diet can play a part in migraines and headache. Although it can be a challenge to change your diet, if the end result is migraine and headache relief, it will be well worth your effort. When hypersensitivity foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall in the number of headaches per month, 85% of patients becoming headache-free (Lancet).

The first line of treatment is always to try and identify trigger factors, which means keeping a careful record of events, mainly of the foods that have preceded an attack. Particular foods are identified as migraine triggers in about 20 per cent of sufferers. Try to avoid missing meals and try and fix meal times. The large female preponderance within migraine sufferers points to the importance of hormonal factors such as the menstrual cycle, which are not modifiable.

The most common triggering agents for migraines are alterations in serotonin metabolism (a deficiency), hypersensitivity foods IgG (in order of the most common-wheat, citrus fruit, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, salt, corn, cane sugar, yeast, alcohol, cheeses, onions), low magnesium levels, hormonal imbalances, histamine-induced platelet aggregation (blood platelets sticking together). Many experts suggest that dehydration is often the overlooked culprit of chronic headaches. The human body is approximately two-thirds water and high water losses can lead to dehydration. Adults generally should be consuming 2.5 to 3 litres of water each day. Drinking the commonly referenced value of 8 cups of water is the minimum a person needs each day without taking into account other factors that increase losses.

Medications

One fact that physicians often find with patients whose migraine or other headache disorders that deteriorate is the over usage of analgesics. The analgesic tablets implicated are all those used to treat the symptomatic effect of headache including such drugs as codeine, caffeine, Solpadeine, Co-codamol, Co-dydramol and Paracetamol. Over use of triptans is also a factor. Even about two doses per week can set up this cycle. It is therefore very important to discuss the use of analgesics with your treating clinician and only use under strict instructions. Most patients benefit from complete cessation of analgesics.

Life Style

Migraine headaches can also be triggered by environmental factors associated with how you live your life or natural phenomena. These can include eyestrain, poor posture, stress, weather changes, blood sugar imbalances and drug use. Other studies cite triggers like hypoglycemia, tension, depression, tobacco, birth control pills, vasodilator drugs, water retention, menstruation, wind exposure, and sun exposure. There may also be factors that aggravate migraines such as poor air, constipation, getting cold, noise, carbon monoxide poisoning, very low / high blood pressure, altitude changes (air travel), bright or flashing lights (a recent study showed 30% were in the sun when the migraine started), loud or low frequency noises, electromagnetic fields (mobile phone), emotional stress or trauma, strong odours (including newsprint), pet allergies, and others.

Some people find that a change in routine can contribute to a headache or migraine. For example changing sleep patterns or changes caused by long journeys can precede an attack. Both too much and too little sleep can be implicated in a migraine or headache starting. In order to reduce migraine and headaches it is important to fix your sleeping pattern especially during periods of increased headache and migraine frequency.

Exercise

Headache researchers are now finding evidence that suggests that moderate exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches in some people. Aerobic exercise, done for thirty minutes, five times a week, may help prevent headaches. It is probable that the endorphins released during exercise tend to promote a sense of well-being and thereby reduce headache occurrence. Give yourself at least six weeks to see if there is any beneficial effect. In the event headaches or migraines get worse discontinue and consult your clinician.

Self Treatment

There are a number of natural techniques which may reduce the severity and frequency of headaches. When a headaches first starts, applying an ice pack can provide quick relief. The ice pack can be placed on the top of the head or on the forehead. Tension headaches result from stress and reduced blood flow to the brain, causing the neck muscles to tighten. To soothe the neck muscles apply heat. Applying a heating pad or taking a hot bath can provide relief.

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