If you get regular headaches and migraines, you know how debilitating and annoying they can be. Here’s a look at what might be causing them and how to prevent them naturally – and for the long term.
Headache and migraine causes
There are many different types of headaches with many different causes, explains DR JON MARSHALL of the Singapore Headache & Migraine Clinic. He incorporates the latest clinical evidence into his treatments to provide immediate relief to each patient’s headache or migraine at the source, without medication or surgery.
“Headaches are usually characterised by a dull to moderate pain, and often affect both sides of the head,” he says. “Headaches can come and go, and respond well to rest and acute medication like paracetamol. Typically, headaches are caused by stress on the body, and do not involve a trigger or pre-warning sign.
Migraines, says Dr Marshall, are usually far worse in their intensity, with symptoms described as moderate to severe pain. In serious cases, migraines can cause excruciating pain leading sufferers to be bed bound in a quiet dark room for days.
“Migraines may be accompanied by an ‘aura’ or visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, sound and smell, vomiting, and nausea. A migraine typically affects one side of the head but can move from side to side. Many sufferers report certain ‘triggers’ that contribute to the start of their migraine – for instance, red wine, chocolate and jet lag.”
But, although the cause of headaches and migraines can be multi-faceted, it’s estimated that almost 80 percent originate in the neck. So, those nagging neck issues you’ve been experiencing likely have something to do with that achey head of yours.
How neck issues can be a cause
There is a transitional area located at the very bottom of your skull and the very top of your neck, where your spinal cord turns into your brain, explains Dr Marshall. This area is referred to as the “brainstem”. It’s essentially the control centre and has been referred to as the ‘headache hub”.
So, this upper neck area is often the main culprit. When the brainstem reaches a certain threshold, it can cause headaches or migraines.
“Your brain and nervous systems are your body’s natural warning system; they control actions such as heartbeat, breathing and sweating, for example. It also signals hunger, tiredness and fear, to name a few. Pain is your body’s way of warning you that you’re putting your body in harm’s way,” says Dr Marshall.
“Commonly, factors such as stress, late nights and dehydration build and compound slowly. The brain and nervous system may signal to us that we need to look after ourselves subtly at first. However, if we ignore those signals and continue as before, the body responds with increasingly severe pain in the form of neck pain, headache or migraine.”
Natural ways to prevent headaches and treat the pain
It all starts with taking the time to look after yourself, says Dr Marshall.
“Generally, the best way to get rid of a headache or migraine is to nurture yourself. You can do this by staying hydrated, eating well and getting some much-needed rest. These actions can be supplemented with essential oils (particularly lavender and peppermint) and vitamins and minerals (especially B-vitamins and magnesium).”
To prevent pain to begin with, he suggests you do the following five things:
#1 Stay hydrated!
Yes, it’s really easy to forget to stay hydrated when you have a busy schedule. But 60 percent of the human body is made up of water. It’s a vital nutrient for our body’s restoration and repair; it also acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord, amongst many other things.
#2 Get adequate sleep
Adequate rest is critical to maintain normal bodily functions, and for the body to recover and repair. When the body is run down, stressed or over tired, this is a common trigger for headaches and migraines.
#3 Get some exercise
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of exercise in reducing stress, depression and anxiety by releasing our body’s natural feel-good chemical, serotonin. Less commonly publicised is serotonin’s ability to help heal wounds and maintain bone health.
#4 Make time to relax
More and more, people have extremely busy lifestyles and juggle numerous commitments. Leaving very little time for self-care can lead to the onset of headaches and migraines.
#5 Try osteopathy and dry needling
When you feel your body is out of sorts, an osteopathic and dry-needling treatment can physically release tightness in your body and ease tension before it escalates. When your body feels good, this has a positive flow-on effect for recovery; this can include improved mood, stress and coping skills, and sleep quality, for example.
Get pain-free right away
Natural techniques including osteopathy, dry needling, corrective exercise, lifestyle advice, ergonomic and postural modifications, and stress release strategies are all offered at Singapore Headache & Migraine Clinic. As an osteopath, Jon Marshall’s approach to treatment is to address the root cause of the problem, not just treat the symptoms. Over the long term, he aims to maintain whole-body health with a hands-on approach and reduce the need for chronic use of medications.
Singapore Headache & Migraine Clinic has locations in the CBD (144 Robinson Road, #10-02 Robinson Square), East Coast (1 Jalan Saudara Ku) and Novena (55 Newton Road, #05-02 Revenue House). Select a location and appointment time 24/7 at your convenience on the online booking system.
Singapore Headache & Migraine Clinic
9006 8375 | sgheadachemigraine.com
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