This article was originally written by Dr. Larry A. Johnson, D.C.
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Headaches are comprised of two major categories, primary and secondary. Headaches belonging to the primary group are not caused by underlying medical conditions while secondary headaches are the result of a medical condition such as trauma, infection or possibly even a brain tumor. Most headaches belong in the primary category.
The primary category headaches include migraine headaches and tension headaches. These two headache types are the most common of all headaches with tension-type headaches being the most common. Tension headaches constitute about 75% of all headaches while migraine headaches affect as many as 30 or 40 million Americans, or approximately 10% or more of the American population.
Migraine headaches can become chronic in nature, but are typically experienced at most once or twice a week, not daily. Females experience the pain of migraines about 3 times as often as males, or about 75% of the time. Migraine headaches can be severe and disabling. They can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to light. About 20% of migraine patients will experience an aura. An aura is a disturbance in vision that consists of brightly colored blinking lights that move across a person’s field of vision.
There are many types of treatment methods that are available to migraine sufferers, both natural and unnatural. The most common method of treatment are pain relievers that are bought without a prescription, or over-the-counter. Non-prescription drugs can include aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), Motrin (ibuprofen), or a combination of acetaminophen and aspirin. These are the most commonly purchased types of non-prescription pain relievers. Migraine headache patients experiencing more severe pain may need prescription medicine.
There are also many types of natural treatment methods that don’t involve the use of non-prescription or prescription medications. These methods of treatment can often relieve migraine headache symptoms and are increasingly gaining popularity in today’s society as people are becoming more educated on the potentially dangerous side effects of drugs. One of these natural treatment methods is putting an ice pack on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. When using an ice pack there should be a barrier between the ice pack and the skin such as a wetted cloth or t-shirt that has had the water squeezed out of it. Ice therapy can lessen the flow of blood to the head resulting in less pressure in the head. It can often help relieve the throbbing pain of a migraine headache by decreasing the flow of blood to the head. It is often beneficial for a person to put their feet in a container of warm water at the same time. This can have the effect of attracting the blood to the feet instead of to the head.
Migraine headaches can sometimes be caused by foods and can be prevented by eliminating these food triggers. Foods that can trigger migraine headaches include, but are not limited to, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, MSG (monosodium glutamate), nuts, cheese, beans, onions and others. Eliminating the trigger may eliminate the migraines.
Another natural treatment method for migraine headaches is simply to reduce stress by relaxing. Many migraines are caused by stress, so eliminating the stress can relieve the pain. Relieving stress can sometimes be achieved by getting plenty of sleep, lying down in a dark quiet room, or a combination of lying down in a dark quiet room with a small ice pack positioned on the neck at the base of the skull as explained above.
This article is a general overview with regard to natural migraine headache treatment methods and may not apply to everyone. As always it is a good idea to seek the help of a professional before treating yourself for a potentially serious health condition.