Headaches - almost everyone experiences headaches at times. Most are caused by tension in
the muscles of the scalp and neck after periods of concentration or stress. Some
result from eating problems or alcohol abuse (see the page for hangovers, from
one of the links further down below). Others are the
forerunners of colds or influenza. Menstruation can also be
Despite popular belief, eyestrain only rarely produces headaches, and if it does, it usually arises from astigmatism. Migraine can cause severe headaches, often on one side of the head only, and sometimes associated with numbness or weakness down one side of the face or body. Headache is common after head injury (concussion), and it can also be caused by sinus problems or problems involving the lower jaw muscles that may result from teeth-grinding.
A sudden, severe headache, often followed by unconsciousness, may indicate internal bleeding underneath the brain known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Meningitis produces a headache aggravated by bright light, and accompanied by fever and neck stiffness. The headache caused by a brain tumour is worst in the mornings or when lying down, and may be associated with nausea and mental disturbances. However, all of these are very rare complaints.
Warning - if a headache persists or recurs frequently, see your doctor at once; do not attempt to treat yourself.
What the therapists recommend :
Naturopathy - the cause of the headache should always be sought. A consultant
will therefore inquire about the patient's way of life to try to discover any
factors which may aggravate the problem. Diet can also be a
trigger, especially in cases of migraine. Cheese, chocolate, alcohol or coffee
can all be very likely causes, but each case would be assessed on its merits.
Behavioural Therapy - for a stress-induced headache, the aim is to relieve tension in the
muscles of the body. This can be done through progressive muscular relaxation,
in which all the muscles are tensed, and then relaxed in turn starting with the
toes and working up the body.
Other alternative treatments :
Acupuncture - headaches are held to be due to an energy blockage in the yang channel of the head. Those that do not respond well to conventional medicine are thought to respond best to acupuncture. Depending on the type of headache, points on the meridians relating to the gall bladder, large intestine, stomach, small intestine governor and bladder are treated.
Massage - certain kinds of headaches - particularly those which tend to start at the back of the head - may be helped by firm effieurage strokes down the back of the neck, and gentle petrissage and kneading of the muscles over the upper part of the shoulders. Follow by deep friction with the thumbs over the tight muscle band on either side of the spine of the neck, and friction with the fingers behind the ears. Then apply firm stroking across the forehead, from one temple to the other, using the ends of the fingers. Finish with more firm stroking down the neck towards the shoulders, avoiding completely any contact with the front of the neck and the throat.
Osteopathy - many headaches are believed to be caused by muscle tension, which can result from poor posture, eyestrain and the pressures of everyday living. Osteopaths may therefore try to free the contracted muscles at the base of the skull, and improve the mobility of the neck joints.
An orthodox view - the main role of the doctor is to reach a diagnosis and treat serious causes of headache. Orthodox painkillers such as paracetamol and aspirin are of only limited value in the treatment of tension headaches.
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