What a Headache: Dealing With Chronic Headaches and Migraines - Part I
You know the feeling: a throbbing in your temples, sensitivity to light and noise, stiffness and pain in the neck, and you may even feel some nausea, blurred vision, or the like. According to the National Headache Foundation, 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of those, 28 million suffer from migraines. There are a multitude of causes for headaches and migraines: everything from dietary choices to the weather. We’re going to identify some of these triggers and outline how to avoid them.
“Early to bed, early to rise…”. We all know the classic quote from Benjamin Franklin. It is pertinent here because one of the easiest headache triggers to control when it comes to chronic headaches is how much sleep you’re getting. Insomnia leads to a drop in serotonin levels which causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate, in turn activating the trigeminal nerve, which is the main nerve involved in migraines. To avoid this, try adhering to a sleep schedule: make sure you’re going to bed and waking up at relatively the same time every day. Introducing some physical activity and exercise to your routine can also aid in regulating this schedule.
The next biggest contributor to headaches is diet. There are certain amino acids that can cause headaches and migraines: the amino acid tyramine can be found in things like red wine and aged cheeses, and the amino acid phenylalanine can be found in chocolate. Another main food trigger is nitrates, which can be found in things like hot dogs, deli cold cuts, or any processed meats. It is also a good rule of thumb to avoid MSG and aspartame. Make sure to monitor your alcohol consumption and caffeine intake as well.
Emotional stress can also be the culprit if you find yourself suffering. Fluctuations in cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline can lead to pain and nausea. This can cause you to unknowingly clench your jaw and neck muscles, a one way street to a tension headache. In this instance, a holistic approach, such as osteopathy, is a great method of treatment. Remedies for stress are things like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, a chiropractic adjustment, and biofeedback.
Be sure to check out part two of this blog post coming up, where we’ll go over some peskier causes of headaches and migraines and how to combat them!