Headaches and Migraines


migraines from a naturopathy perspectiveAs pain is not visible, those that suffer from either headache or migraine feel very alone and misunderstood by family members, friends, work colleagues, employers, and even practitioners at times. Pain is a very lonely and debilitating condition, and only the sufferer or those that have ever experienced that level of neck or head pain can truly understand the effect it has on one’s quality of life. Pain anywhere in the body wears a person down, but when it is in the head, it is hard to switch the pain off without medication.

 

During my 36 years in practice and research as a naturopath, I have treated many patients who have suffered for more than 20 years with this debilitating condition. In many of these cases these patients are now either migraine free, or are able to manage their pain with much less reliance on large doses of their prescription medication. I have found when using complementary medicine that sufferers of headaches or migraine headaches respond best (in the absence of structural problems) to a combination of either herbal pharmaceutical extracts or homoeopathic complexes that I have designed. Both modalities would be supported by the use of not only dietary advice, but correct nutritional therapy.

 

Headache is one of the most common symptoms encountered in practice and 76% of women and 57% of men will report at least one headache per month. (1) Headaches may either be acute (sudden onset) or chronic i.e. continuous; long standing. Headaches which feature a sudden onset require careful medical investigation to exclude the possibility of a life-threatening condition such as subarachnoid haemorrhage or meningitis.

 

Headaches may be of a chronic continuous nature and they might be caused by as an example:

* Tension headaches i.e. tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, jaw and scalp. The pain is commonly both sides of the head (bilateral), and noted at either the front of the head, or at the back (occipital) part of the scull, and is commonly referred to as tightness. It is also important to note, that a headache that keeps a patient awake at night is not a tension headache, and in these cases, there would be an organic cause. (2)

 

* High blood pressure. These headaches are characteristically occipital (the back part of the scull), being worse in the early morning and improving later in the day. (3)

* Post-traumatic

* Neuralgic following the onset of shingles of the face, neck or head.

* Psychogenic

 

Migraines

The pain associated with migraine may start as a throbbing, pounding, or pulsating feeling beginning on one side of the head and spreading to both sides. Alternately, the patient may experience what is referred to as an aura (approximately 15% are aura related) (4) and this can be a warning that a migraine is about to take hold. Migraines that occur without an aura account for approximately 85%. (5) These are much more severe than a standard headache and can result in visual changes and often nausea. Migraine headaches are made worse by light and this is why migraine sufferers (when severe) often have to lie in a darkened room during an episode. Medically this is referred to as photophobia.

 

Types of Migraine

Migraines can be classified as either classic migraine or cluster migraines. Classic migraines are commonly one sided (unilateral), recurrent and occurring several times a week to several times a year. The duration is also variable and they may last up to 24 hours with nausea, vomiting and photophobia. They are frequently preceded by visual and other sensory or motor disturbances such as parasthesiae in the limbs or around the lips with or without weakness of the limbs. (6)

 

 Cluster migraines

These occur on one side (unilaterally), occurring over one or other eye. They last for hours and occur once or twice a year. Each bout lasts several weeks, with attacks of pain occurring 1-3 times a day, particularly at night.  Symptoms and signs common to an episode include: watery discharge from the nose (rhinorrhoea), watery eye (lacrimation), flushing of the forehead together with redness of the eye on the (ipsilateral) side the migraine headache is noted. (7)

 

 

References

 

1. Carol Mattson Porth. Somatosensory Function and Pain. Unit XII Neural Function. Pathophysiology. Concepts of Altered Health States. Six Edition Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002: (48):1116

 

2. A. Davis. T. Bolin & J. Ham. Central Nervous System. Symptom Analysis & Physical Diagnosis Second Edition. Pergamon Press Sydney. Oxford. New York. Beijing. Frankfurt. Sao Paulo. Tokyo.

Toronto. 1985: (3): 23

 

3. A. Davis. T. Bolin & J. Ham. Central Nervous System. Symptom Analysis & Physical Diagnosis Second Edition. Pergamon Press Sydney. Oxford. New York. Beijing. Frankfurt. Sao Paulo. Tokyo.

Toronto. 1985: (3): 24

 

4. Carol Mattson Porth. Somatosensory Function and Pain. Unit XII Neural Function. Pathophysiology. Concepts of Altered Health States. Six Edition Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002: (48):1116

 

 

5. Carol Mattson Porth. Somatosensory Function and Pain. Unit XII Neural Function. Pathophysiology. Concepts of Altered Health States. Six Edition Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002: (48):1116

 

6. A. Davis. T. Bolin & J. Ham. Central Nervous System. Symptom Analysis & Physical Diagnosis Second Edition. Pergamon Press Sydney. Oxford. New York. Beijing. Frankfurt. Sao Paulo. Tokyo. Toronto. 1985: (3): 22

 

7. A. Davis. T. Bolin & J. Ham. Central Nervous System. Symptom Analysis & Physical Diagnosis Second Edition. Pergamon Press Sydney. Oxford. New York. Beijing. Frankfurt. Sao Paulo. Tokyo. Toronto. 1985: (3): 23

 

 

Naturopath treatment York City Health Clinic

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