Natural treatments for headaches

With up to three quarters of the population suffering from headaches, I thought it would be useful to note down some tips to help a condition that seems to be increasingly prevalent in our society.

Headaches are painful and can often stop us from carrying out day to day life, you can see it in people's faces and eyes when they are suffering either from an acute episode or chronic discomfort which is relentless. Sadly, repeated headache attacks may even predispose the individual to other illnesses. For example, anxiety and depression are significantly more common in people with migraine than in healthy individuals.

Natural remedies, including the ones below, are drug-free ways to prevent headaches. Or to at least help reduce their symptoms.

Self-Massage Tips

If you can't get to a massage therapist, you can still reap many of the benefits of massage with your own hands, by using soothing rubs and pressure-point applications.

WebDM has a fantastic list of simple, self-massage techniques. Including this one to ease headaches and tension:

  • Start by placing your thumbs on your cheekbones close to your ears and use your fingertips to gently apply pressure and rub the temples (the soft spot between the corner of your eye and your ear).

  • Using very firm pressure and a tiny circular motion, gradually move your fingers up along your hairline until they meet in the middle of your forehead, massaging your entire forehead and scalp as you inch along.

Nutritional Tips

Paying attention to your diet is one of the best possible defences against headaches and migraines. Whole, natural foods that don't have preservatives or artificial flavourings are a good place to start when it comes to your diet.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, you should incorporate foods that are "pain safe." These include the following:

  • Rice

  • Cooked Green Vegetables

  • Cooked Orange Vegetables

  • Cooked Yellow Vegetables

  • Cooked or Dried Non-Citrus Fruits

Equally there are also some common foods that should be avoided as they can cause headaches in susceptible people. Certain beverages and additives are among the worst triggers, including alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Here are some common food triggers to avoid:

  • Dairy

  • Chocolate

  • Eggs

  • Citrus Fruits

  • Meat

  • Wheat

  • Nuts and Peanuts

  • Tomatoes

  • Onions

  • Corn

  • Apples

  • Bananas

Sleep Tips

Getting enough sleep is an important part of staying healthy. As you sleep, your body repairs itself so that your brain and body can function optimally when you're awake. The Migraine Trust studied the relationship between sleep and headaches and concluded;

"It is clear that some headache disorders are profoundly influenced by sleep, and some seem to occur exclusively in relation to sleep. Conversely, both of these groups of headache disorders can affect sleep, giving rise to a causality dilemma (or a "chicken and egg" scenario)."

To achieve a good night's sleep and keep headaches at bay;

  • Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

  • Spend some time outdoors or in natural light during the daytime, as this provides an important cue to your brain for finetuning timing of the body clock.

  • Make your sleeping environment as restful as possible, including sufficient darkness and quiet, comfortable bedding and few devices around the bed.

  • Exercise, preferably before dinner rather than before bed.

  • Don't use your bed for activities that could be done elsewhere (such as watching TV, studying), and try to avoid staying in bed if you are wide-awake.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are used as remedies for a variety of ailments, and there are a number of studies that show specific essential oils may be beneficial for headaches. These include:

  • Lavender oil

  • Rosemary oil

  • Peppermint oil

  • Chamomile oil

  • Eucalyptus oil

There are a number of different ways that you can use these essential oils to treat a headache:

  • Massaging diluted oil into the temples and across the forehead.

  • Add a few drops to a tissue then hold the tissue under the nose and breathing deeply.

  • Create a compress by soaking a towel in cold water with a few drops of oil then applying to the forehead or neck.

  • Add a few drops of oil to a hot bath.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of treatments, you may also want to try acupuncture, reflexology, or homeopathy. I know some great local therapists which I can recommend, so if you would like to try any of these let me know (will link to email address).

It is so satisfying to treat people with headaches. Whether it's a result of the techniques used, or from having had some time and space to relax, it's wonderful it is to see them leave with less pain and discomfort behind their eyes. As if a weight has been lifted. For me it really reinforces that, in my experience, most cases of either one-off or regular (monthly or quarterly) massage or natural treatments really can keep headaches at bay.

If you would like to discuss your symptoms please get in touch. I am always happy to discuss your individual requirements.

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