By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 10, 2016
- Is your headache tension, cluster or migraine?
- The mother of all headaches
- Tips to tame your head pain
Did you know that just about half of the world’s entire adult population experiences a headache each year?
That’s a lot of headaches! And in many cases, the head pain just comes and goes. But there are certain types of headaches that seem to hang around a lot longer than others.
The most common type of headache is called the “tension-type” headache. They account for upwards of 70% of chronic, recurring head pain.
Now, a tension headache is exactly what it sounds like; head pain caused by excess stress – whether it’s physical stress or mental stress. And when one of these strikes, you never know how long it will last. It could be gone in a few minutes, or it could last for several weeks.
If you’re prone to these types of headaches, you probably pull out your favorite painkiller – like ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. But I’ll bet you’ve noticed something about these over-the-counter drugs. Sometimes they work… other times they don’t.
That’s because overuse of these medications can create a “rebound” effect.
Say you have a headache. You want it to go away. So you keep popping pills in an effort to get rid of it. But once the medicine wears off, the headache pops right back up.
What do you do? You reach for more.
What happens is this. As the pain reliever leaves your system it creates a withdrawal response in your body. This triggers another headache – a new one. So you take more pills. And when you stop taking them it triggers another headache.
This is a vicious cycle that can lead to even worse headache symptoms as time goes by. (Caffeine works in much the same way. It’s a great cure at the onset of a headache, but drink to much and you end up with the rebound effect.)
One of the best things you can do to get rid of your tension headaches – or stop them from happening altogether – is to find ways to relieve all of the stress and tension that’s built up in your body.
Getting regular massages is probably the best medicine for this type of head pain. A good massage therapist will know all of the acupressure points that trigger the release of tension throughout your body.
Regular chiropractic treatments can also help, by relieving pressure in your neck and spine, which may be where some of these headaches originate.
If you’re stuck in “rebound hell”, you quickest route to relief may be acupuncture.
The Mother of All Headaches
The second most common type of headache is the mind-numbing, light-blinding migraine. And it’s by far the worse of the two. If you’ve ever had one, you know these are the “mother” of all headaches.
One of the most common triggers for migraines is food. But not all foods affect all people the same.
The nitrates in hotdogs, deli meats, bacon and ham can send some folks reeling. In others, it might be the histamines in beer and wine. Other foods associated with migraines include fermented foods, cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, MSG and gluten.
This is why the first thing I have my patients do if they suffer from migraines is to keep a food diary. Usually eliminating the offending food eliminates most migraines. In my experience, gluten is a major trigger. But there is also something you can do for extra protection.
There’s a combination of supplements that can reduce frequency and severity of migraines:
- 250 to 325 mg. of a feverfew supplement standardized to contain 0.2 – 0.4% parthenolides four times per day.
- 250 to 400 mg. of magnesium malate or glycinate daily in a divided dose can help you avoid these brain-clobbering headaches.
- 100 mg of CopQ10 in the ubiquinol form
Tame Cluster Headaches with Melatonin
The least common type of headache is called a cluster headache. The name suits the condition, since these are headaches occur in “clusters” over a period of several weeks.
Each individual headache last from 15 minutes to more than an hour. They can occur every other day… or several times a day. Then, they’ll go away for months – or even years at a time – before the next “cluster” rolls around.
The interesting thing about these headaches is that they appear to be connected to your circadian rhythm. They often occur at the same time every day and the same time at night. They also seem to follow the seasons.
So it’s no surprise that melatonin – the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm – is often decreased in patients who experience cluster headaches.
At the same time, cluster headache patients often experience poor sleep quality, even as much as a year after their last attack.
Supplementing with 4 mg of time-released melatonin before bedtime can rapidly alleviate cluster attacks in many patients. It can also reduce headache frequency. Additionally, it can help you re-establish normal sleep patterns, put you to sleep more quickly and keep you from waking up during the night.Starting at 1 mgm of melatonin an hour before bedtine and building up by 1 mgm./week to the timed release form is a perfect way to start.
No matter what’s causing your headaches or what type they are, throbbing temples are never pleasant. But with the right treatment, their frequency, intensity and duration might not be quite as debilitating.
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Sándor PS, et al. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 2005 Feb 22;64(4):713-5.
Mauskop A, et al. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm. 2012 May;119(5):575-9.
Peres MF, et al. Melatonin in the preventive treatment of chronic cluster headache. Cephalalgia. 2001 Dec;21(10):993-5.
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