Headache

Definition

Headache: Pain in or around head.

Migraine: Recurrent attacks of headaches with visual and gastrointestinal disturbances.


Symptoms

Headache: Irregular attacks of pain in various parts of head or in the sinuses in the facial area.

Migraine: Recurrent pain with associated nausea, vomiting, and photophobia. The pain is usually confined to one side of head or eye. The patient is irritable and desires seclusion without direct light. Attacks may be preceded by flashes of light due to intracerebral vasoconstriction and followed by head pain due to dilation of extracerebral cranial arteries in the dura and scalp.


Etiologic Considerations — Primary

Spinal

• Atlas (C1) • Axis (C2) • C1 to C7 • Cervical/thoracic junction (C6 to T2)

Muscular spasm

Suboccipital triangle, neck and shoulder tension, toxicity

Arthritis

Nerve compression (direct and indirect due to osteophytes or inflammatory disease)

Stress

• Teeth grinding • Anxiety • Perfectionist • Depression • Insomnia

Digestive problems

• Constipation • Indigestion • Intestinal toxicity • Inflammation of stomach

Disease of eye, ear, nose, throat, sinuses, teeth

Toxic

• Drugs • Infections • Kidney disease • Liver disease • Arthritis • Food additives • Gas appliances • Paint fumes • Nicotine excess • Vitamin overdose • Coffee excess • Monosodium glutamate (Chinese-restaurant syndrome, due to excess MSG for sensitive individuals leading to headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea)


Etiologic Considerations — Secondary

• Coffee (including coffee withdrawal, called the ‘rebound headache’), junk foods, tea, cocoa, salt, fats, excess carbohydrates and sugars • Hypoglycemia • Dehydration, whether acute or chronic • Allergy • Liver disease • Head injuries • High blood pressure • Circulation • Cerebral hypoxia • Anemia • Water retention • Menstruation • Premenstrual tension • Pregnancy • Vitamin B1 deficiency • Birth control pill • Menstrual disorders • After spinal puncture • Meningitis • Tumor • Eye strain (Poorly fitting glasses, prolonged concentration, poor vision)


Discussion

Headaches and migraines are frequently confused, and the terms have been used by many almost synonymously. They are two very distinct entities, however, and should always be accurately diagnosed. The case history usually is sufficient to establish a migraine, with its recurrent one-sided nature and the associated visual and gastric disturbances. A migraine diagnosis is important, since this condition is deep-seated and therefore may take longer to correct. Specific allergy is commonly found in migraine patients, and tyramine-containing foods (such as cheese, wine, citrus, and then to a lesser extent, avocados, plums, bananas, raspberries, and alcoholic beverages) all have been known to initiate an attack. The exact mechanism by which tyramine, a breakdown product of the amino acid tyrosine, works is not proven. It is suspected that tyramine causes a release of norepinephrine, causing vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the scalp and brain. This results in a reduced blood supply, which may be the cause of the visual symptoms that so often warn of a migraine. As the norepinephrine supply is exhausted, the blood vessels respond by dilating, according to the law of dual effect (every action has an equal and opposite reaction). The enlarged vessels are the postulated cause of the migraine pain. Other food allergies or sensitivities may be a factor. Chocolate is a common offender, but any food may be the cause. It is estimated that at least 25 percent of migraine cases are due to food sensitivity. Refer to Allergies for more detail on allergy diagnosis and treatment.

From the lengthy list of possible etiologic considerations, it becomes obvious that to cure chronic headaches, a thorough case history is important to help isolate the major cause. Often, several factors will coexist, and all these must be dealt with to obtain permanent relief. The most frequently occurring causes are spinal lesions, intestinal disturbances, liver congestion, poor circulation, hypoglycemia, allergy, menstrual disorders, sinusitis, muscular tension, and arthritis.

Headaches of cervical origin are the most common cause of all headaches. This type of headache is very easy to diagnose and treat. No matter how long the patient may have been suffering from chronic or recurrent headaches—and we have treated many cases in which these headaches have been a constant problem for as long as the patients can remember—they usually respond to osteopathic care in a relatively short period of time. The site of the problem is almost always between the occiput and C1 or between C1 and C2, but any region of the cervical spine or the muscles in this area can be the cause. Since headaches of cervical origin are by far the single most common cause of all reported headaches, examination and treatment by a qualified practitioner of spinal therapy should be the first choice, not the last.

In regard to stress, muscular tension, and cervical arthritis, these are often progressive. The most common syndrome we see is the middle-aged patient (usually female) with severe headaches due to stress and the inability to relax. This slowly restricts cervical movements and circulation. Chronic muscle hypertonicity causes local toxicity (due to accumulated metabolites) and decreased disc space. The result is chronic headaches with or without other referred pains down to the hands. Over the years this lack of circulation and restricted movement becomes recognizable on X-rays as osteophytic lips and spurs, the classic findings in osteoarthritis. This is a perfect example of how improper emotions eventually affect the physical body, causing disease.

An interesting note about migraines and coffee consumption comes from the action of coffee, which constricts blood vessels and therefore helps relieve many headaches of vascular origin (a migraine headache is one type of vascular headache). Many people report chronic morning headaches until the first cup of coffee is consumed. This “coffee cure” has little real curative effect. In fact, due to the law of dual effect, which governs all drug activity in the body, any agent which elicits a given action by the body will later cause an equal but opposite reaction. Therefore, the vasoconstriction caused by caffeine is followed by vasodilation (the cause of vascular headaches) later on. This is one of the reasons a midmorning and midafternoon headache will recur in heavy coffee consumers.


Treatment

Treatment depends on predisposing causes. If liver congestion is a major factor, as it often is, a liver-cleansing fast and liver-cleansing herbs are indicated (see the liver-cleansing regimen under Gallbladder Disease). Intestinal toxemia also calls for fasting and enemas (see chapters such as Digestive Disorders and Leaky Gut Syndrome). Hypoglycemia-related headaches require frequent high-protein meals and specific nutrients related to that disorder (see Hypoglycemia). In general, alkaline fasts repeated 3 to 7 days are usually very therapeutic, with an enema taken on days 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7.

Fasts

Apple juice: General.

Fruit juice: General.

Grapefruit juice: Liver congestion.

Mucus-cleansing diet: Sinusitis. (See appendix 1.)

Hot water and lemon juice: General, liver.

Fruit diet: General, less severe.

Enemas

Coffee: To relieve acute migraine. (See appendix 1.)

Emetics

The induction of vomiting will usually abort an early migraine and may help relieve a severe headache in many cases. Lobelia is taken in emetic doses. (Lobelia can be toxic at high doses. Use only under professional supervision.)

Hydrotherapy

Ice compress to base of head while lying in darkened room.

Ice to forehead with simultaneous hot footbath is also effective to abort an attack.

Exercise

Vigorous daily exercise seems to help reduce frequency of attacks.

Therapeutic Agents

Vitamins and Minerals

Selection of appropriate supplements very much depends on the individual case history, and professional guidance ought to be sought. The following would need to be considered:

Vitamin B complex: 25 to 200 mg one to two times per day.

Vitamin B12: 10 mg three times per day in acute conditions.

Niacin: 50 to 200 mg three times per day in acute conditions.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin C complex

Calcium: 800 to 1,000 mg per day or 200 to 400 per hour in acute attacks.

Magnesium: 400 to 800 mg per day or 100 to 200 mg per hour in acute attacks.

Others

Atomodine

Garlic

Botanicals

Betony (Betonica officinalis): With vertigo.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): Relaxing nervine, antispasmodic, sedative, especially for headaches of menstrual origin.

Blue flag (Iris versicolor)

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis): Nerve-soothing and sedative.

Culver’s root (Leptandra virginica): With liver involvement.

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus): For bilious headache.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): For bilious headache.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus): Liver involvement.

Hops (Humulus lupulus): Hypnotic.

Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia erythrina)

Lady’s slipper (Cypripedium pubescens): Headaches of climacteric; hysterical headaches; reflex headaches from ovaries or uterus.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis): Apply to forehead.

Lobelia (L. inflata) (Large doses of lobelia become emetic and possibly toxic. Use only under professional supervision.)

Mistletoe (Viscum album): Headaches due to increased blood flow to brain, high blood pressure.

Pulsatilla (Anemone pulsatilla): Nervous and gastric headache, neurotic headache with menstrual disorders. (Highly toxic; use only with professional supervision.)

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): Headaches of stomach origin.

Senna (Cassia spp.)

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

White willow (Salix alba)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Yellow jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens): Drink . to 1 cup infusion every . to 1 hour until headache is relieved.

Useful Prescriptions

1. Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): In equal proportions.

2. Catnip (Nepeta cataria), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Peppermint (Mentha piperita): In equal proportions.

3. Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Senna (Cassia spp.): In equal proportions.

Note: Severe headaches may be due to a serious medical disorder. An example is the headache of glaucoma, which may, if left untreated, lead to vision loss or blindness in a very short period of time. Another example is the severe headache with vomiting that results from intracerebral hemorrhage that must be considered a medical emergency.

Excerpts from Better Health Through Natural Healing 3rd Edition

First published in 1985, Better Health through Natural Healing has become one of the most successful and authoritative resources of its type, with more than 1.5 million copies sold worldwide. Since the original publication of this comprehensive guide, alternative therapies have become more and more accepted by the mainstream, and patients and practitioners of the wider medical community are embracing complementary medicine as an effective treatment option for a range of medical conditions.

The book is available at the West End clinic, exclusively in Australia.


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