Pain and Headaches Center
General Health Information
There are two types of common headaches, tension and migraine. A tension headache is characterized by a steady dull pain that feels like a vice grip on the entire head, and is caused most often by tension and stress. Frequent headaches may also be a sign of food allergies in that they may be triggered by wheat, MSG, sulfites, preservatives, dairy products, yeast, vinegar, and fermented foods. Excess caffeine consumption may contribute to the tension that causes headaches. Whatever the cause, the result is a common tension headache that we?ve all experienced at one time or another. A migraine headache is characterized by a throbbing or pounding sharp pain usually on one side of the head, and often accompanied by nausea. Migraines may be triggered by stress and fatigue, hormonal fluctuations, bright light, and by foods such as alcohol, chocolate, peanuts, and avocados. Migraines are also known as vascular headaches, because they may be caused by the dilation or contraction of blood vessels.
Since both types of headaches may be caused by tension, an important part of treatment includes relaxation and stress-management techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, massage, and meditation. Magnesium supplementation may be useful for both kinds of headaches, also, because it assists in smoothing nerve impulse transmissions. Feverfew and 5-HTP can be a helpful natural supplement for migraine headaches. Feverfew has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce the vascular swelling in migraines. 5-HTP may help to increase the brain?s serotonin levels, which can be low at the onset of migraines. Since headaches may also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, any headache that is unusual or unrelenting should be checked out by your physician.
In general, pain is a message to your body that something is wrong. Acute pain, such as a cut or injury, requires immediate treatment. In contrast, chronic pain (recurrent migraines or arthritis, for example) may signal an ongoing problem that cannot be eliminated by a single treatment. Often a ?chronic pain cycle? develops where the pain produces anxiety, and this anxiety intensifies the pain. Treatments that help to reduce anxiety and interrupt the pain cycle include acupuncture, massage, and other alternative approaches. Specific herbs such as valerian root may also be useful in relaxing muscles and relieving tension. All of these modalities may be helpful in breaking the cycle of chronic pain. Numerous prescription and non-prescription drugs are also effective for relieving pain. As always, consult your doctor or pharmacist.
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