4 Reasons you’re Getting Headaches & How to Relieve Them Naturally

By Elena Kenny & Sarah Coote

 

My headaches started in primary school. My eye sight was bad due to these debilitating migraines, my GP put it down to eye strain and I got the quick fix of glasses. Made sense; a common problem was effortlessly fixed with an easy solution… But of course, the body isn’t always that simple and this ‘quick fix’ provided me with little to no relief, and the headaches continued. Reflecting back now, I understand the many factors overlooked that could be contributing to my headaches.

I became a slave to my headaches and they controlled my life. I remember often locking myself in a dark silent room, away from the world, waiting for the crippling pain that consumed me to alleviate. I knew something had to change, so I looked for a solution and found chiropractic.

Here’s just a few contributing factors to headaches I’ve learned through my ongoing chiropractic care, and how to find natural relief with each:

  1. Hydration: When looking at headache triggers, it’s easy to overlook some of the simplest ones, like dehydration. Many people mistakenly think dehydration occurs only in hot weather, and that you're not dehydrated if you're not thirsty. When dehydration actually occurs when we lose more water than we take in and it can sneak up on you quite quickly. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and can trigger and prolong migraines.(1) The brain is actually the most hydrated organ in the body, and therefore one of the first to symptomise with lack of water. A study published in the Handbook of Clinically Neurology also showed that those who suffer from migraines, tend to be more sensitive to dehydration.(2) A dehydration headache can be felt throughout the entire head and can occur in the front or back, specifically. If dehydration is the cause of your headache, a common sign is that pain will increase as you move your head. Dehydration is an avoidable migraine trigger and prevention is the key. My chiropractor always advises to ensure I drink at least 2 litres of water daily, to stay hydrated and prevent those debilitating headaches from taking over my day.
     
  2. Hormones: Being female, you’re generally on a hormonal roller-coaster ride most of your life. Oestrogen and progesterone, and the physical and chemical processes that go towards producing them, all have a widespread effect on your body. This can cause imbalances to the chemicals and systems of the brain, resulting in headaches. It is well known, that there is a distinct relationship between hormones and migraines, with some women being more sensitive to fluctuations than others. Studies have shown that a dip in hormone levels (which happens just before your period) and then peak during ovulation, can trigger migraines. (3) The estrogen/progesterone balance plays a pivotal role in experiencing hormonal-related headaches. My chiropractor explained that research suggests that magnesium supplementation for those with menstrual migraines can be beneficial. It has also found that low magnesium levels may be attributed to a lower migraine threshold. (4) 400mg of magnesium everyday can be used as a migraine preventative and watching food triggers like dairy and gluten, which can cause hormonal imbalances, can play a significant preventative role. (13) (14) (15)
     
  3. Stress: Let’s face it, with the demands of every day life, it’s very easy to get caught up in a chronic stress response cycle. My chiropractor explained a tension headache can be caused by a tightening of the muscles in the upper back, neck and head or by a subluxation. It is the most common of headaches and, in its chronic form, one of the most neglected and difficult types of headache to treat. (6) Psychological stress of every day life can trigger and prolong these headaches. (9) A tension headache is a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, often described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. These headaches usually begin slowly and gradually, and can last for minutes or for days. Tension headaches are often the result of stress or bad posture (my next point), which stresses the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck. Chiropractic aims to relieve stress and tension from the spine, and as I’m consistently told by my chiro at my appointments, reducing stress levels plays a huge role in prevention. (7) (8) (9) I find exercise, meditation and taking time out for me with a massage, along with my regular chiropractic care, really makes a difference to the occurrence and prolongment of my headaches. Researchers found that "spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than commonly prescribed medications.” (5) What a great natural treatment and one that addresses the cause, rather than band-aiding symptoms.
     
  4. Posture: Being the tallest girl in school and always slumped over, it definitely set me up for some significant postural issues. Who would of thought posture, the way I stand, would so significantly contribute to my debilitating headaches! (10) When I slouched forward, my neck and shoulders started moving forward also, and paired with the pull of gravity, I started losing the natural cervical curve of my spine! The increased stretch of my neck and shoulders put an enormous amount of pressure on the upper back, neck and the nerves. These postural abnormalities increased strain on tissues in my spine. (11) This leads to inflammation of the tissues and became a source of pain, which resulted in stress signals being sent to the brain. When high enough concentration of these signals reach the brain, they can result in pain syndromes such as headaches. With chiropractors specialising in the health of the spine, there are two primary things that I was assessed for; spinal alignment and spinal flexibility and movement. With gentle and specific adjustments, this increased my spinal flexibility and reduced my postural abnormalities. I have regular adjustments from my chiropractor to continually improve my spinal health, reducing the strain on my spine and allowing for healing and repair. I have found this to be is a critical part of me managing my headaches. One study of 127 migraine sufferers in Australia found that those that received chiropractic treatment had fewer attacks and needed to take less medication. (12) 

If you’re finding headaches taking over and controlling your life, just as mine were, avoid masking the important feedback from your body with pain medication and look to address the underlying cause. This will help you identify and support your body’s natural systems to hopefully alleviate the problem for life.


About the Authors:

Elena Kenny (Practice Manager & CA) 
Elena has been a part of the Health Shack dream since its inception and has loved watching all efforts unfold into the inspiring hub of energy Health Shack is today. Elena loves being part of this supportive team of visionaries and chiropractic masters at Health Shack and is an incredible source of loving energy, wisdom and excellence within the team. She exudes warmth and believes every day is new and exciting, and belonging to the Health Shack family is a rewarding adventure. Elena must have the Luck O'The Irish

 

Sarah Coote (Nutritionist)
Sarah's vision and purpose is to give people access to a clear understanding of true nutrition for thriving health. She believes every person holds within them power to change anything and has a passion to inspire and give insight into the ingredients needed for thriving health and creating empowered, extraordinary lives through delicious and nourishing nutrition. . Sarah has done the extensive hands on experience to gain sound understanding of the nutrition she lives and breathes. And this coupled with consistently staying up to date with the latest, reputable scientific research, based on epigenetics and evolutionary biology, she has created the distinctive Nutrition program, allowing individuals to enjoy effortless weight loss, boundless energy and vibrant health. 


Reference

(1) Blau JN. Water deprivation: a new migraine precipitant. Headache. 2005 Jun;45(6):757-9.

(2) Wöber C, Wöber-Bingöl C. Triggers of migraine and tension-type headache. HandbClin Neurol. 2010;97:161-72. doi: 10.1016/S0072-9752(10)97012-7. PubMed PMID:20816418.

(3) Martin, V. T., & Behbehani, M. (2006). Ovarian hormones and migraine headache: understanding mechanisms and pathogenesis—part 2. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 46(3), 365-386.

(4) Silberstein, S., & Merriam, G. (1998). Sex hormones and headache 1999 (menstrual migraine). Neurology, 53(4 Suppl 1), S3-13.

(5) Cleland, J. A., Childs, M. J. D., McRae, M., Palmer, J. A., & Stowell, T. (2005). Immediate effects of thoracic manipulation in patients with neck pain: a randomized clinical trial. Manual therapy, 10(2), 127-135.

(6) Bendtsen, L., & Jensen, R. (2006). Tension-type headache: the most common, but also the most neglected, headache disorder. Current opinion in neurology, 19(3), 305-309.

(7) Martin, P. R. (1996). Psychological management of chronic headaches. Guilford Press. 

(8) Holroyd, K. A., O'Donnell, F. J., Stensland, M., Lipchik, G. L., Cordingley, G. E., & Carlson, B. W. (2001). Management of chronic tension-type headache with tricyclic antidepressant medication, stress management therapy, and their combination: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 285(17), 2208-2215.

(9) Nash, J. M., & Thebarge, R. W. (2006). Understanding psychological stress, its biological processes, and impact on primary headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 46(9), 1377-1386.

(10) Fernández‐de‐las‐Peñas, C., Cuadrado, M. L., & Pareja, J. A. (2006). Myofascial trigger points, neck mobility and forward head posture in unilateral migraine. Cephalalgia, 26(9), 1061-1070.

(11) Watson, D. H., & Trott, P. H. (1993). Cervical headache: an investigation of natural head posture and upper cervical flexor muscle performance. Cephalalgia, 13(4), 272-284.

(12) Rossi, P., Di Lorenzo, G., Malpezzi, M. G., Faroni, J., Cesarino, F., Di Lorenzo, C., & Nappi, G. (2005). Prevalence, pattern and predictors of use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in migraine patients attending a headache clinic in Italy. Cephalalgia, 25(7), 493-506.

(13) Millichap, J. G., & Yee, M. M. (2003). The diet factor in pediatric and adolescent migraine. Pediatric neurology, 28(1), 9-15.

(14) Peatfield, R. C., Glover, V., Littlewood, J. T., Sandler, M., & Clifford Rose, F. (1984). The prevalence of diet‐induced migraine. Cephalalgia, 4(3), 179-183.

(15) Egger, J., Wilson, J., Carter, C. M., Turner, M. W., & Soothill, J. F. (1983). Is migraine food allergy?: a double-blind controlled trial of oligoantigenic diet treatment. The Lancet, 322(8355), 865-869.

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