- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Headaches And What Causes Them - An Osteopathic Way To Treat Headaches
An alternative view to Headaches
Okay, hands up. How many of you have suffered belting headaches? Like me, you may find most of them happen in the workplace. Or maybe at home or else it's all the christmas thing and the stress of it all! Headaches can vary from infrequent and trivial annoyance (from too much drinking) to a symptom of what might be a serious disease...Nervous tension reputedly accounts for about 90% of all causes of headaches. I say reputedly because it can be misleading, perhaps dangerous to say that, since a number of environmental factors entirely unrelated to the state of your nerves may be the real reason. Stay with me, okay? As a broad term - headache can cover many things. Like a pain found in the neck, face, scalp, throat, nose and even teeth. Headaches happen in tandem with other discomforts, like nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, hearing problems, visual disturbances and even balance problems.
Any headache that accompanies a bout of vomiting, or a new unknown type of headache should be checked fully by a health professional. In my case, I got one from a darn tennis match that seemed innocent enough, but because a ball whacked me in my poor head, it meant there was reason to take it further when the headache came on to me and left me almost numb with pain. In my case a blow to the head or trauma like this was the culprit, and I was duly treated. And yes, recovering thankfully. (Cheeky Girl sits here out on the roof deck, overlooking the city, laptop in lap as she ponders her new hub.) I am glad I went to my Osteopath to get it checked. I was told I did the right thing. (Xray and MRI included!) But I got Osteopathic treatment, and learned some new things along the way.
It's a sad fact but you must have noticed recently in the media that some famous people or just people who get mentioned in the papers who have died - were found to have died not for the obvious reason but for what was discovered to be an underlying reason. In an unrelated incident, a personal friend of mine dies in a bicycle accident when he tipped over the handlebars of the bike onto some grass. A post mortem later revealed a head injury he had experienced years previous to the event as being the underlying cause of death, and he had done nothing about it at the time, besides complain of a mad thumping headache. Serious headaches represent only a small amount of headaches experienced in general. People can have recurring headaches over several months, and might treat them with painkillers and / or anti-inflammatories, with what might be varying degrees of success. But what of the causes? What is behind the headache?
Tension headaches are related to stress. When the muscles around the neck contract due to tension, they squeeze and irritate sensitive nerves at the base of the skull and around the skull. Taking painkillers will dull the pain, and yes - relief will be most welcome. But painkillers never mention on the box how some simple things can help eliminate headache from happening. Gentle osteopathic treatment can help the tension and pain, and provide longer relief, reducing the need for (and expense of) medication. My Osteopath treats sports injuries, and this is how this became known to me.
Pain which goes across the forehead or in the scalp could be due to irritation of the joints at the base of the neck. Irritation of those joints can also lead to other feelings of nausea or an irritable bowel. Simply improving the movement of these joints will help reduce that kind of headache. This is why, before any sports I do now, I do stretches and quick and gentle exercises to "warm up" my muscles, and get those joints moving nice and freely. ( I went kayaking one time, and I am prone to sea-sickness on water. Asking my Osteopath for suggestions, she surprised me by recommending an old chinese remedy; munch or suck on a small piece or root of ginger. Result - no seasickness for me since that day!)
But the Osteopath I have isn't just interested in joints, she's interested in why joints don't work or move properly. (I was surprised how the osteopathy versus the physician thing works here.) Take age and degeneration (it gets us all eventually) or whiplash type injuries that have not been treated properly, or maybe posture (I know LOTS of people who have bad posture or slouch with shoulders slumped forward!) - they can all lead to discomfort and stress on the joints, thus causing pain. Add headache here if you wish, and soon we are almost repeating ourselves.
The spine is a very important part of the human body, and source of lots of pains and aches for us. Any misalignment of the spine will result in accumulated stresses in the neck and so we get headaches. Treating the misalignment of the spine will provide longer periods of pain relief, since the underlying causes are being treated. Okay, let me assure you I am not trying to do a hard-sell on the whole Osteopath thing here. I attend my GP for various things (lady matters, you know?) that the Osteopath doesn't ever deal with, and that is to be expected, I guess. But I do believe in coincidence. And my friend convinced me of the Osteopathic approach to pain as being good, when I recommended her to see my Osteopath about her Sinus problem. Osteopathic treatment works in interesting ways.
Here's how it works: improper blood supply to and from the head can result in migraine-like headaches and sinus congestion. Apparently blood needs to flow freely to and from the brain. The brain is ultra-sensitive, and is very sensitive to changes. Any mechanical blockages by either tense muscles (in head or neck area) or spine misalignment may impede blood flow and thus lead to some uncomfortable headaches. It turns out my girlfriend has a recurring mechanical blockage that gives her sinus problems. By adjusting these mechanical blockages to allow free blood flow, it helps in reducing if not eliminating this kind of headache. Now why do the boxes of pills we usually buy never tell us this, I wonder? Would a box of painkillers recommend using the right kind of pillow for resting your head on, for example?
Its useful and interesting what can be discovered by visiting the Osteopath. Many moons ago, when planning a trip to The Philippines with friends, I was told to try getting massages there as Filipinos are big into this; it's cheap by western standards (500 pesos, typically, less than ten quid) and works wonders for getting rid of aches and pains, as well as improving the blood flow. So I duly had some massages while there, (even a beach massage in Boracay) and I never slept so well in all my life. Bliss! I simply underestimated the medical benefits of getting a back or neck massage, or full body massage, but it's really good. And so relaxing! I am a convert.
With headaches, there are other causes too, including improper diet, not drinking enough water, poor body position at work, visceral disturbances or hormonal imbalances. There are many kinds of headaches it seems, as well as causes. My Osteopath seems to go into case history and examination, which helps to identify underlying causes, and she can then offer a personalized treatment plan. My GP doesn't seem to go into this level of detail, and I wish she would! We all want the same thing here, but Osteopaths and GPs have different ways of doing things, it seems. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
As my grandfather liked to say, "it's nourishment we need more of, not punishment". He grew up in Italy, and he knows a lot. But I entirely agree. And at the prospect of sounding like an "oldie", maybe I can just underline, that we are never too young (or old) to go that little bit further and learn to understand the causes behind things like annoying headaches. When I ever get one, I know I am doing something wrong. Moral of the story: learn to anticipate headaches and take measures to avoid them.
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