In “5 Ways to Give Yourself a Headache,” we learned some excellent ways to make our heads hurt; now let’s find out how to keep our heads happy!
Strategy #1: Make sure your hormones are balanced. This one mainly applies to women (who tend to have more headaches than men, anyway; feel free to break into a chorus of “I Enjoy Being a Girl”), but hormonal imbalances are famous headache-provokers. Estrogen, progesterone, pancreatic hormones, the hormones secreted by the thyroid, adrenals, and pituitary (did you know the pituitary gland can actually swell when we are under prolonged stress, causing it to press on nerve endings?) – if your endocrine system isn’t happy, headaches will likely result. If you have lots of headaches, getting your hormone levels checked out may be a good idea.
Strategy #2: Address allergies. Many doctors consider allergies the leading trigger of headaches. (Prolonged or severe allergies can be caused by adrenal insufficiency, so there can be an important link there.) Seasonal allergies, such as those involving pollens and those lovely spring and autumn molds, are notorious for causing headaches, largely because they can cause the lining of the sinuses to swell, secrete more mucus than usual, and become partially blocked; most of us know what that feels like. But other allergies can play a role in headaches, as well. Allergies or sensitivities to certain foods trigger headaches in many people, and so do food additives, such as sulfites and MSG. Keeping a food diary (yes, it’s a pain, but it works) and/or undergoing allergy testing may provide valuable clues about the sources of your headaches. And, of course, eating well and eliminating junk food reduces the toxic load on the body, which can reduce the frequency and severity of many peoples’ headaches. So keep it clean, folks.
Strategy #3: Make sure to get enough sleep. Violating this precept was Strategy #5 in my award-winning blog series, How to Give Yourself a Headache. As noted in that post, sleep deprivation causes the body to produce proteins that irritate the nervous system, while suppressing proteins that calm it down. Not surprisingly, that encourages headaches! There are seemingly as many helpful hints out there regarding getting a good night’s sleep as there are insomniacs, but some of the most reliable strategies are: making sure your bedroom is dark enough and not too warm; avoiding eating and drinking within a couple of hours of bedtime, especially things involving caffeine, alcohol, or sugar; reducing blue light exposure – think cell phones, tablets, TV, and the like – late in the evening; and sticking to a sleep schedule, so that if you nap during the day, you do so for short periods (20-30 minutes is ideal), keep partying all night to a minimum, and refrain from sleeping in excessively when the opportunity presents itself. (If you only get four hours of sleep one night and sleep until noon the next day in an effort to compensate, your body is likely to get mighty confused.) Most of all, realize that getting enough sleep truly is important. Macbeth himself mused about “Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast…” Shakespeare knew what he was talking about, that’s for sure.
Strategy #4: Be careful about how you use electronic devices. Electronics have become such an integral part of modern life that we really do hate to admit how bad for us they can be. The glaring screens, along with the weird positions we get our heads and necks into in order to use those screens, foster eyestrain and neck strain, which, in turn, foster headaches. So try your level best to reduce your exposure to your cell phone, computer, and tablet, and when you do use them, practice strategies to reduce the damage: take frequent breaks in which you stand, straighten up, and focus your eyes on objects in the middle and far distance; be mindful of posture when using electronics, so you don’t hunch over, crane your head forward, or squint at a too-close screen; and use your dictation function whenever possible, to reduce the amount of time you spend pecking away at teeny tiny keyboards.
Oh, and by the way, please, please, please don’t stare at your cell phone while walking across the street. This has less to do with reducing headaches than with reducing your chances of getting flattened by a passing vehicle, but I guess that would give you a headache too, so….
Strategy #5: Try complementary medicine. Even people who are dedicated to the Western medical approach can be driven to alternative modalities by headache pain; sadly, they often seek such help only after exhausting many other less weird-seeming options. But why wait? A good acupuncturist, chiropractor, or massage therapist can be very helpful with headaches.
And a good biodynamic craniosacral therapist can be helpful, too. TMJ pain, tension headaches, and migraines often respond very well to biodynamic work; in fact, migraines are one of the main reasons people come to see us. So if headaches are a regular part of your life, and you would like them not to be, contact me at reSource Wellness. I would love to be part of your path toward a pain-free life.
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