Although there are over 150 different types of headaches, there are three types of headaches that are the most common; tension, migraine and sinus headaches.
Tension headaches; are the most common type of headache out of the three. Roughly 7 million Australians are likely to experience tension-type headaches. This type of headache is usually a dull and persistent pain that may vary in mild to moderate intensity and it’s usually felt on both sides of the head or neck (some however experience jabs of sudden pain in the head).
Migraine headaches; there are over 3 million people who experience migraines. These headaches are often described as intense, pounding, throbbing pain. Unfortunately they can last anywhere from 3 hours to days. Along with the pain and throbbing, people experience other symptoms such as; sensitivity to light, noise, or smells; nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, blurred vision, dizziness, fever, pale/ weakness.
Sinus headaches; leave you with a deep and constant pain in your cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of your nose. This usually happens when sinuses get inflamed. The pain usually comes along with other sinus symptoms, such as a runny nose, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and even swelling in the face.
Many people can be very dependent on over-the-counter painkillers at the first sign of a headache or migraine. However, have you ever stopped to read some of the side effects of some of these common pain killers? For example; Ibuprofen can cause ringing in ears, rashes, nervousness and is also tough on the digestive tract and may cause nausea, bloating, gas and diarrhoea just to name a few. Aspirin also has some possible side effects including; gastrointestinal ulcerations, nausea, heartburn, drowsiness, cramping, rashes and abdominal pain. All headaches are not the same and taking pain killing pills will not address the root causes. Let’s look at 6 common causes that may be triggering your headache, as it’s worthwhile addressing these first.
Not drinking enough fluids can cause the constriction of the meninges, which are thin layers of tissue that line your brain and spinal cord. They constrict from lack of hydration, and because the meninges have pain receptors, this can cause headaches. Aim to drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day. Herbal teas, mineral water, coconut water kefir and vegetable juices are also great hydrating options.
A major life event such as birth of a baby, death of a loved one, a career change, moving house, losing a job or a relationship breakdown can be very stressful, however that’s not usually the type of stress that triggers headaches. Instead, it’s often the everyday stressors we’re faced with; getting every red traffic light, work or university deadlines, running late to a meeting, bills, arguments with a loved one to name a few. For some people, these small stressors can trigger headaches. Responding to these daily stressors by tensing your muscles, grinding your teeth or stiffening your shoulders may only make your headaches worse. You often can’t avoid these daily stressors; however you can control how you react to them. If you learn to stay calm, relaxed and breathe deeply you can manage your stress levels which can help prevent headaches.
- Have You Skipped a Meal?
Many of my clients come to me complaining of getting headaches weekly or even daily. I’ll always ask them to see their food diary and often they’ll tell me they’re just too busy to take a small break and eat lunch at work. Unfortunately when you skip a meal, it can lead to low blood sugar. By skipping a meal your blood sugar levels may drop to a level that causes your body to release hormones that are compensating for depleted glucose levels. This leads to blood pressure increase and narrowing of your arteries. The result can be headaches and migraines, as well as irritability, moodiness and low energy levels. It’s important to consume some type of quality fat and protein with each meal as this helps to stabilise blood sugar and energy levels, enabling you feeling satisfied for longer, which will reduce your chances of getting headaches.
- Hormonal Headaches
Many women commonly experience hormonal headaches and migraines around menstruation and ovulation – this is because there is a rapid change in hormones in the body. Levels of estrogen and progesterone fall to their lowest levels prior to menstruation. Estrogen controls chemicals in the brain that affect the sensation of pain. A drop in estrogen levels can trigger a headache.
- Magnesium Deficiency
Headaches due to high blood pressure in most cases are due to a magnesium deficiency. Aim to increase the amount of magnesium rich foods in your diet such as; Changing Habits Cacao Melts, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish such as mackerel, avocado, figs, bananas and Changing Habits Colloidal Minerals. We also recommend using a magnesium spray or soaking in magnesium salt baths for 15-20 minutes to begin restoring magnesium levels and helping to relieve migraines and headaches.
- Vitamin D Deficiency
Research shows that Vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with headaches and chronic migraines. The amount of vitamin D we make ourselves from sunlight conversion is dependent upon where we live, what time of year it is and how much sun exposure we get. This is why I recommend to always aim to try and get 15-20 minutes of sunshine every day, it’s the easiest way for you to naturally top up your Vitamin D stores. You can also consume Vitamin D rich foods:- fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, cod liver oil, egg yolk, beef liver and cheese. Mushrooms, when exposed to ultraviolet light have the capacity to produce Vitamin D too.
- Bad Posture
One very common reason for headaches is bad posture. Our modern day life is largely to blame for this as many of us hunch over our computers, phones or laptops or sit in our cars or on the couch for hours on end which can cause neck-related and tension headaches. High heeled shoes, work stations that are incorrectly set up and counter tops that are too low can also cause bad posture and lead to headaches. To reduce the risk of headaches and tension, you could get a stand up desk, take regular 10 minute walking breaks every hour throughout the day and consider seeing a chiropractor regularly. Consider incorporating some simple stretches throughout your day, even if you are working at a desk in an office.
If you would like to try some natural remedies to help alleviate headaches and migraines, rather than relying on medication, you may also find the following blogs useful;
- ‘Home remedies for Headaches & Migraines’
- ‘Natural Remedies to Cure a Painful Headaches ASAP’
- ‘Get rid of Your Headache with this Magical 3-Minute Acupressure Routine’
Happy changing habits