By Marc Courtiol
According to the most recent studies, 95 percent of men and 90 percent of women have at least one headache per year. For most of us, though, headaches occur far more often than that. And an unfortunate portion of the population-about 12 million Americans according to recent figures-deal with headaches that occur at least every two days. Most headaches are not serious, but considering the ubiquity of this issue, it is no wonder that over-the-counter pain medications are big business. But for those of us who adhere to natural-health principles in our lives, relief does not have to come in pill form. There are alternatives.
Types of headaches
There are multiple types of headaches that adults experience, and treatment should depend on what type you have. Here are the most common ones.
- Tension headaches: These are the headaches that most of us experience on a fairly regular basis. They result from muscle contractions at various points around the skull, and the pain is mild to moderate, sometimes progressing for several hours before ultimately going away.
- Migraines: Migraines are severe headaches that can last a long time and often involve severe, throbbing pain. Migraine sufferers become sensitive to light, may feel nauseous, and may have trouble eating and sleeping while experiencing the headache. The causes of migraines are mysterious, and the condition can recur chronically throughout the sufferer’s life.
- Sinus headaches: Sinus headaches often accompany the common cold, and they result from the swelling and stuffiness that go along with that infection.
- Cluster headaches: Cluster headaches involve severe and localized pain that is often centered behind the eyes and can have a constant, piercing quality. Like migraines, they tend to be chronic and recurrent.
Natural headache relief
Many people who have frequent headaches are not comfortable with the idea of taking Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen, or another over-the-counter pain-reliever day in and day out for life. As a result, many seek natural solutions that are better for the body and provide more holistic relief. Here are a few of the natural solutions that may work for you.
- Stress management: Stress is one of the most common causes of tension headaches, and taking daily measures to cut back on the stress in your life can have surprisingly powerful effects. The solution can be as simple as picking up a hobby, getting some more exercise, or taking up yoga or meditation. Whatever stress-management technique you use, make sure to give it some time to take effect.
- Acupuncture: Seek out a local acupuncturist who is skilled in treating people with chronic pain or headaches. The scientific underpinnings of acupuncture are still relatively mysterious, but there is no doubt that the treatment does work. And if you want to get fancy with it, try electrically stimulated acupuncture, which can be even more effective in mitigating headache pain.
- Diet and nutrition: As much as it may pain you to do without your morning coffee, at least try cutting out caffeine for a couple of weeks, just to see if it works. Meanwhile, it also cannot hurt to eliminate artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and preservatives found in processed foods.
- Massage: If you have a recurring headache, set aside some time to get a professional massage. An hour-long session with a skilled massage therapist can work wonders. And if you do not have the time or money for that, ask your significant other to gently rub your back and neck for a few minutes.
- Exercise: One of the best ways to relieve the tension that leads to many headaches is to give your body something to do. Especially if you work at a desk, your body may have an abundance of pent-up energy that needs an outlet. If you do not give it one, it may come out in the form of headaches. Go for a brisk walk or do some yoga. Better yet, do both.
- Herbal remedies: The synthetic drugs found at your local drug store are not the only pills that can help with headache. You might also try herbal supplements. Several herbs-including ginkgo biloba, ginger, kava kava, feverfew, and valerian-are thought to have headache-fighting process. And an all-around vitamin supplement can help as well.