Photo Credit: Aldo Aldoz
by Peggy Webb, Guest Blogger, Local Nourishment.org
We live in a very time-pressed society. Between caring for our children, our aging parents, demands of work and home, spouses and friends, commuting, preparing food (hopefully) for meals and the constant cleaning up that every day requires, we have precious few moments to really slow down and breathe.
I have the luxury of working at home. My daily commute is twenty steps to the desk where I work. My lunches are spent with my family, and the dress code is decidedly casual. I also have the disadvantage of working at home. Depending on how early I rise in the morning, I might have 20 minutes to be alone with my thoughts before the constant conversation and urgent needs of the six other humans (and two cavies) with which I share a house begin making demands of me. It is a rare thing to think a thought through from beginning to end, and even more unlikely one job will be concluded before I am asked to move on to another.
But taking time is essential when you are presented with a family member who needs attention for a physical complaint. The best answer for “Mom, I have a headache” is not “Take an aspirin.” The best answer is “Where and how does it hurt?” Take a moment and ask a few questions. Does the headache fall into one of these patterns?
1 Sinus headaches generally attack the facial area with pressure and sharp points of pain which gets worse when you bend over.
2 A migraine, with its one-sided pain that worsens with light and noise, is often accompanied by nausea.
3 A sudden onset headache with “exploding” and excruciating pain that subsides slowly over the course of an hour can be a cluster headache.
4 Headaches that feel like your temples are being squeezed in a vise and coincide with tension in the shoulders and upper back are usually tension headaches.
Each type of headache has its own location, character, and duration, and each responds to different treatment.
The first treatment I recommend to family members with headaches (no matter what “flavor” they are) is to lie down in a quiet, dark room for 20 minutes. This solves most of the headaches we encounter during the day. If pain persists, treatment might take a variety of courses.
A sinus headache is usually treated with a cold pack to the face. Ice can be tough on the delicate tissues of this area, but a cold, damp washcloth can be very soothing. Because lying flat can cause sinuses to fill and hurt more, I usually recommend the sufferer recline with his or her feet up and head elevated during treatment. Sinus headaches are frequent in our home in springtime, and treating allergies are an important part of avoiding them.
Migraines can be torture for days on end, but if you are quick to act, they can be stopped before fully developing. Rather than starting with prescriptions that change the electrical and chemical function of the brain, we start with a small snack of carbohydrates and protein. Sometimes, regulating blood sugar is enough to stop a migraine cold. When that is ineffective, we reach for Feverfew, an herb that has shown promise among migraine sufferers.
I suffered with cluster headaches frequently as a teenager, and thankfully, they are becoming less frequent as I age. The symptoms—screaming pain, facial numbness, blindness in one eye, and deafness in one ear—are nothing short of horrifying the first few times you experience one. There are few treatments, but some have reported a small dose of caffeine once the worst of the attack is over can keep it from returning the same day. Others say caffeine can trigger an attack. The best remedy is the one that works for you. I’m sorry to say that because of their intense, immediate onset, finding an effective treatment is often difficult.
If you get a headache from driving, or after a certain number of hours at a desk, check your posture. Stress in the shoulders, poor neck alignment, and pressure on the lower back can create tension headaches very quickly. A few deep breaths with your eyes closed (not while the car is in motion, please) can relax you and lower your blood pressure. Taking a five-minute break to stand up, stretch, walk about, and count your blessings can be just what your body is begging for. Taking five minutes to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine can triple their effectiveness.
There can be other triggers of headache pain. A misaligned lower jaw, food sensitivities, even certain types of lighting can bring about a headache.
If you are dealing with a recurring headache—say, a child who complains of a headache every night after bath—check the environment. Is their bath water too hot or cold? Is there mold in the bathroom? Are the bath products strongly scented? Do they pull their heads back at a muscle-wrenching angle while washing their hair? Don’t forget to look back a couple hours. Perhaps a sugary dessert is causing a blood-sugar crash and they need a small piece of cheese before bed.
Aromatics applied to the forehead can help in some cases. A paste of ground cinnamon and clove oil or peppermint oil (test a patch for skin reactions first) can help. Even just sniffing a lovely, relaxing essential oil like lavender, clary sage, or other scent you love can provide relief. Scalp massage feels lovely and is very de-stressing. Back and neck rubs are a godsend when your head is aching.
Adding cayenne pepper to foods can restore balance to circulation problems that are common among migraine and cluster headache sufferers. As always, check with a doctor about embarking on any course of self-treatment at home.
So take the time to really think about the next headache you or a loved one experiences. It doesn’t take much longer than popping an aspirin and can set you on a path of mindful healing.
Peggy Webb is a homemaker, mom of six and blogger. She’s not a doctor, nutritionist or other health care professional, just a student nutrition and herbal health. Her articles are not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your own trusted healthcare professionals about your concerns and questions. Visit Peggy’s blog at LocalNourishment.org.
Today is Natural Cures Tuesday on Hartkeisonline.com!
Do you have a health promoting idea to share with our readers? Please add it to the comments, below. Bloggers, you may send a link to a relevant article in your archive to kim dot hartke at gmail dot com, and it will be added to this post!
Our first contribution is from Sarah Pope, WAPF Chapter Leader in Florida: