Lasting Relief for Headaches & Migraines
In the US 15% of all adults suffer from severe headaches or migraines (Statista, 2017). There are multiple causes for headaches and a percentage are even created by medication for something else. In my experience most headaches are preventable without recourse to any form of medication, be it natural or pharmaceutical. The best approach is prevention. In this article we look at the primary causes, so you can take steps to banishing them forever.
For simplicity's sake, it is assumed here that migraines are just bad headaches. Clinically there are distinguishing features, but the underlying causes tend to be the same.
We can categorize headaches as:
In practice there is usually a component of both in varying proportions, hence it is necessary to address both for the best outcome.
Imagine you cut your finger. Damaging tissue stimulates nociceptors (specialised nerve receptors which transmit pain signals to the brain). As part of the process of repair, chemicals are released into the area of damaged tissue causing swelling. The inflammatory chemicals themselves also cause pain. There is nothing preventing the cut finger from swelling, but if that were inside the skull, there is no free space to accommodate swelling. The inflammatory process holds fluid in the tissues, rather than pushing any excess back into the bloodstream, but water is of course incompressible. Inside the skull, with nowhere to go, inflammation puts pressure on the soft tissue structures, such as membranes, ligaments and the brain itself. The brain doesn't have any sensory ability, but all the other structures do. So when inflammation is present in the head, a headache will likely follow.
In a previous article we saw how inflammation from food intolerances is systemic. It may well be triggered by something in your intestines but the inflammatory chemicals go everywhere. We also noted how the mucous membranes lining sinus cavities in the head are linked to those in the gut, thus inflammation in the gut also appears in the sinuses producing rhinitis and congestion. Inflammation dictates swelling somewhere, and if that happens to be in your head that means another headache. Food intolerances are probably the most common cause of repetitive headaches because they cause inflammation, every single time you eat the problematic food. But what could be easier than avoiding that food?
Women's headaches may coincide with their menses, usually being a sign of deficiency of a nutrient involved in that process. If they experience more than one headache per month it is more likely related to food intolerance or allergy.
Imagine instead of pressure from inflammatory fluids, it comes from the blood unable to leave the skull fast enough. Arteries into the skull are surprisingly large; the brain requires a lot of energy. Your heart pumps blood into the head under pressure, but it drains back out through the force of gravity, at a much lower pressure. Blood flow in low pressure vessels, veins, are more easily restricted than arteries, potentially leading to a backup of blood within the skull. This process also puts pressure on soft tissue structures, causing pain.
Blood flow in and out of the brain passes through a convoluted route. It is very common to see a disturbance to this flow in the presence of excessive tension in the neck muscles, especially those at the base of the skull. These muscles are the last chance your brain has to keep your head and eyes level, and as such they are frequently involved in structural compensations from old injuries. The injuries needn't have been neck injuries, like whiplash, they could be injury from almost anything which requires some element of spinal adjustment. Falling on your bottom as a child, coming off your bike in your teens or a car accident or fall from a horse in your thirties. All will almost certainly leave their mark on the upper cervical muscles. Those muscles don't like being held in compressive positions for long either, so sitting at a computer five days a week or having the wrong sized pillow or having a functional leg length discrepancy triggered by childbirth, also tend to cause long-term tension and restriction to blood flow from the head.
This last point brings us on to a frequently overlooked finding in women who get headaches after having children. Sometimes the coccyx is damaged or strained during a normal delivery. The coccyx may appear to have little purpose, on the contrary, it is a small but crucial part of the spine. Not only do some of the pelvic floor muscles attach to it, so does the end of the dural sheath. The dura is the membrane which envelops the brain and spinal cord, and it is pain sensitive, so when the coccyx is distorted its akin to pulling on the dura and the brain! That's enough to give any woman a headache, or indeed a man if they injured it some other way.
Another all too common trigger for headaches is mental tension or anxiety. The mechanism is very similar to that of the accident compensations in that it creates tension in the upper neck muscles restricting blood flow.
Individuals with arthritis in the cervical spine always have a lot of tension in that musculature too. That's the brain's attempt to prevent movement of joints which are wearing out. We can make the assumption that early or advanced arthritis is a sure sign of long standing nutritional deficiency too.
One example of deficiency leading to headache, as anyone who has ever experienced cramps will tell you, when you're low on sodium or magnesium, i.e. after sweating a lot, muscles start to twitch. It can actually be any one of a number of minerals which cause cramp however, because of their involvement in muscle contraction and relaxation.
Whatever the reason, anything which results in increased muscle tension in the neck or physical distortion of the vasculature into the head has potential to cause a headache.
The good news is ALL of these causes are treatable through manipulation or food sensitivity testing.
We have looked at the most common causes for frequent repetitive headaches. If you suffer headache after injury or in conjunction with underlying health issues, seek medical advice.
Article by David Wells 2021
The perspective shared in this article comes not just from medical training but from symptoms and treatment protocols observed over more than 20 years of clinical experience.
If you found this article interesting, this topic and many more are explained in depth in the book, 'Finding Awesome: Proven Steps to Extraordinary Health'. Read more about it here.