In the past year nearly 80% of men and 95% of women have had at least one headache. While most headache sufferers resort to OTC drugs and pain relievers to treat their symptoms, many are now turning to natural headache remedies to provide a safe but effective solution for their headaches.
There are two general types of headaches: primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension, migraine, and cluster headaches, which are not caused by any underlying medical condition. Nearly 90% of all headaches that occur are primary. Unlike primary headaches, secondary headaches are caused by medical conditions, such as infection or increased pressure in the skull due to a growing tumor. These account for a very small percentage of all headaches.
Cluster headaches, like migraines, are extremely painful. They tend to occur in clusters of several intense headaches during a short period of time, after which additional headaches may not be experienced for many weeks. Cluster headaches have been known to last more than one year and less than a few weeks. Cluster headaches that extend over a year are considered chronic and are difficult to treat.
Migraines are severe headaches that many times begin in one area of the head and then spread to other areas. Migraines may become more severe with exposure to light and are usually preceded by symptoms that may include depression, irritability, restlessness, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances such as flashing lights or localized blindness. Migraines many times cause extreme nausea, vomiting, and altered vision.
A tension headache is usually experienced as a dull, yet persistent pain in the back of the neck extending to the base of the head. Tension headaches many times are associated with sensitive points in the neck called trigger-points or in the neck muscles themselves. Individuals with a tension headache may also complain of pain, throbbing, and a sensation of tightness in the head. Tension headaches often include irritability, insomnia, and extreme fatigue.
The natural options for treatment include, herbal supplements, shaitsu and yoga to name a few.
1. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) This herb treats migraine pain by interrupting its main cause: inflammatory reactions in your head that aggravate nerve endings and cause the blood vessels to expand. When taken daily, feverfew can prevent migraines, according to Gene Bruno, a nutritionist in New York City, as well as “reduce their severity, duration, and frequency.” Be patient: The results can take four to six weeks. But if you stop taking it, your migraines might return.
Take 500 to 600 mg of standardized feverfew daily to treat migraines. Take two equal portions of feverfew on an empty stomach in the morning and evening.
Butterbur root According to the journal Neurology, the root extract from this daisy plant is one of the best herbs to prevent migraines; patients who took butterbur extract saw migraine frequency decrease by as much as 48 percent.
Take: 100 to 150 mg two to three times per day. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, suggests looking for extracts with low levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which are naturally occurring in the butterbur plant and can be toxic to the liver. He recommends the brand Petadolex.
Shiatsu and You
Shiatsu is a form of massage which concentrates on placing pressure on specific acupressure points with the fingers to help increase the flow of energy and improve circulation in the body. Based on Japanese healing methods, shiatsu is a great alternative treatment for migraines, helping to reduce the tension and increase the flow of blood which triggers your migraines. While full body shiatsu sessions must be performed by qualified practitioners, you can learn a few basic techniques as self treatment for migraines.
Begin With Your Breath
Begin by practicing deep breathing techniques which will help to calm the mind and body. Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth, finding a smooth, relaxing rhythm. Place your thumbs on either side of your nose, near your eyebrows and apply a gentle pressure, holding the position for at least 3 full breaths. Move your thumbs up about 1/2 an inch until your find the ridge above your brows, again, holding the pressure point. Using your index and middle fingers, continue this technique along the top of the head, moving 1/2 an inch at a time until you reach the base of the skull.
Pressure Relief From the Neck to the Temples
Once you reach the base of the skull, use your index fingers and thumbs to gently pinch the tissue of your neck. Your index fingers should be close together at the base of your neck with your thumbs directly on the outer edge of the muscles which extend up your neck. Hold this position for at least 3 full breaths. Now, return to your first position, repeating the same technique, but this time moving horizontally across the brow 1/2 an inch at a time until you come to your temples. Hold the temple position for at least 5 full breaths.
Shiatsu Isn’t Just Relief, It’s Prevention
These shiatsu techniques for migraine relief will help to reduce your symptoms during a migraine, but you can use them at any time to help prevent your headaches from coming on. Whenever you begin to feel tension in the head and neck, use these techniques. Whenever you take notice of the warning signs of an oncoming migraine, use these techniques. A combination of deep breathing and pressure point activation will help you get relief and even prevent a migraine headache.
Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.
1) Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.
2) Seated Twists like Half Twist: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).
3) Chest Openers like Yoga Mudra Arms: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
4) Eagle Arms:This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.
5) Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance….
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