NATURAL WAYS TO PREVENT HEADACHE/MIGRAINE
1 - Get Your Neck Checked
As we have stated recent research has shown that migraine and headache conditions share a common cause ie. the central sensitisation of the lower brain stem. One potential major contributing factor in a sensitised lower brain stem is the upper three spinal nerve roots in the neck and their ability to refer pain to the head. Manual therapy can effectively can effectively reduce the irritation of the upper cervical vertebra and surrounding structures. You able to ascertain whether the neck is a factor in headaches by careful palpation of the upper three cervical vertebra. If your headache/migraine symptoms are able to be reproduced on palpation it is a very good indicator that treatment of this region will lead to a significant reduction in your headaches.
Dean Watson in his second PhD study has measured the activity of the brainstem in migraineurs during treatment of the upper three spinal joints. He demonstrated that reproduction that reproduction and resolution of patients' migraine pain desensitised the brainstem. This is the first major peice of research showing a precise link of neck disorders to migraine. (Watson DH, Drumond PD. Cervical Referral of Head Pain in Migraineurs; Effects on the Nociceptive Blink Reflex, Headache 2014:54;1035-1045(full)) For more on the Watson Approach to Headache go to www.watsonheadache.com
Having trained with Dean Watson I am well placed to assess whether your neck is a contributing factor your headache/migraine.
2 -Keep a Headache Log
A good way to start is to figure out your triggers is to keep a detailed record of every headache/migraine for a few months.
Time and date headache started
Time and date headache finished
Where you were when headache started
Severity (use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least and 10 the most severe)
Location of the pain
Type of pain(pressing, throbbing, piercing etc.)
Other symptoms(nausea, vomiting)
Hours of sleep the night before headache
What I ate before headache(with emphasis on the common triggers mentioned earlier)
Medications taken and effect of medications
Activities before headache occurred (for example increased computer use)
How stressed did I feel over the last few days( use scale 1 to 10, with 1 being less stressed and 10 being maximally stressed.
Writing a log helps you start to identify patterns which can be very powerful in motivating you to change your lifestyle to alter your triggers.
3 -Eliminate Food Triggers
The headache diary and the list of foods in the trigger section will assist in finding your food triggers and avoiding them. As a general rule the less processed food you eat and the more vegetables you eat the less migraines you will have. Remember that low blood sugar can cause headaches so don't skip meals. If you are hungry don't go for sugary snacks or high sugar fruits as this will temporarily spike your blood sugar which then crashes back below normal possibly leading to a headache.
4- Book in for Acupuncture
Acupuncture works by improving the quality of blood supply to damaged nerves. As we discussed earlier the migraine/headache is caused by hypersensitivity of the nerves in the brainstem. The reason nerves stop functioning correctly is a compromised blood supply. The blood supplies the nervous system with what is needs to function, including all its nutrients, white blood cells and oxygen. When the blood supply is blocked this leads to a compromised nerve conduction which leads to a hypersensitive nerve. Acupuncture's main function is to unblock this blood stagnation. Acupuncture helps the body get back to neurological homeostasis and the vascular system to normality.
The systematic review into Acupuncture by the Cochran review was conducted looking at 11 studies including 2,317 participants with tension headaches and 22 studies with 4,419 migraine sufferers. The study found cases acupuncture was more effective than routine medical care. This is very significant as the subjects received better outcomes without the risk of side effects from the medications. This shows acupuncture is a great way to break the medication cycle.,
Acupuncture as well as treating headaches directly is also very successful at treating some of the major triggers of headache and migraine.
Insomnia -A review of randomized Acupuncture trials into insomnia was conducted by Cao & Pan in 2009 which included 46 trial with 3,811 patients. The results showed Acupuncture appeared effective in the treatment of insomnia. I have found my own results in the clinic back this up.
Hormonal Problems- Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine have a long history of treating problems with menstruation. A study published in Jan 2012 in the Canadian Medical Associated Journal had 500 menstrual migraine subjects receive acupuncture for four weeks. Four weeks after the trial the number of migraines had halved.
Stress – The stress response of the body in triggered in the area of the brain called the HPA. When put under stress this axis release peptides and proteins called CRH which in turn launch the production of a group of hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol levels are now at the forefront of research into stress. In chronic stress, the cortisol levels are elevated and never come back down to baseline, so people end up with insomnia, anxiety or depression because of the constant ramping up of this system. The journal of Endocrinology researches led by Ladan Eshkevari looked at cortisol levels in Rats and found that Acupuncture reduced the cortisol levels dialing down the heightened stress response and returning it to normal levels.
Sinus Congestion – As discussed earlier most so called sinus headaches are really a migraine that may have been triggered by sinus congestion. Chronic rhinitis or post nasal drip as well as been a migraine trigger is cause disruption. A study(Hua J Acunct. Tuina 2010) of 85 patients with chronic rhinitis found 61 people had total recovery, 21with marked improvement with 3 people with no effect. This showed a remarkable 96% improvement rate. The key factor in this study was the subjects underwent 15 sessions of acupuncture in a 15 day period. A key to acupuncture is to have multiple sessions per week initially as this clinically obtains the best results.
Get Some Exercise
Botox is injected directly into the muscles of the forehead, neck ad shoulders, it does not pose the same risk of systemic side effects as orally ingested medications do. Botox effects last around 12 weeks and has been shown to be useful. Obviously this is a quite invasive treatment so I recommend the other natural treatments to be tried before this.
Try Some Natural Supplements
Butterbur- A perrenial shrub that has shown promising results as a migraine prophylactic. In one study butterbur at 75 mg twice a day reduced migraine frequency by 48 percent compared with 26 percent for the placebo.
Riboflavin -Riboflavin or vitamin B2 has shown effectiveness in reducing migraines. In a 1998 study by Schoenen, Jacquy and Lenarts 59 percent of those taking 400mg of riboflavin daily improved by at 50 percent in headache days compared to 15 percent of those on placebo.
Magnesium - Studies have shown migraine sufferers have a lower levels of mineral magnesium. Dr Jay Cohen has written a book called the Magnesium Solution for Migraine Headaches. I have found in my work with multiple muscular- skeletal conditions magnesium supplementation can help.