I used to suffer from chronic headaches when I was younger. I had heat headaches, sinus headaches and two migraines (both when I began menstruating, at 13 years old). I was seated away from windows in school and had my eyes checked often to see if they were the cause (perfect vision). In my late 20s, with the help of a Naturopath, I discovered my chronic, daily headaches were diet related. Once we removed wheat and dairy, they disappeared (as did my chronic sinusitis).
In the last few years I’ve had one migraine in April or May. What starts out in the morning as a bad headache worsens as the day goes on to leave me debilitated in bed by late afternoon where I can’t even stomach the sound of water running (and where I’m forced to take an Aleve – blah, which I hate doing, as Tylenol or Advil wouldn’t touch it at that point). So I’m always on guard when I feel a bad headache coming on. Just the other week I had a bad headache, where the light from the fridge felt blinding. I lay down on a swim noodle or the golf balls (see below) and then had the tea and it completely vanished. I was amazed.
I’m big on getting to the root, not just masking ailments with drugs. I try really hard to not use Tylenol (which is hard on your liver) or Advil (which is hard on your kidneys). I know food, as I’ve mentioned, can be a factor as well as weather pressure affects me. I also log my headaches because my diet is pretty clean so I’m interested to know if the times I do stray from my usual diet is the cause. The ones I’ve had in recent years in the spring are liver/detox related in all likelihood (see below).
My 9 yr old son, who has a cold now, just had a 10/10 (10 for highest amount of pain) all afternoon. I gave him a dose of each of the five on the below list, over a 60-90 min period, and once he got out of the bath, he said with a huge smile that his headache was now a 3/10. He does not like to take Tylenol or Advil (but will eventually if a 10/10 doesn’t subside) but prefers to try to attack it naturally and will get into bed early. He knows sleep is, of course, the best medicine for anything; however, it’s hard to fall asleep with a splitting headache.
my top 5 natural tips for treating headaches:
- epsom salts bath – A lot of headaches are tension related and this will definitely relax and relieve stress and tension in both mind and muscles, soothing the tension areas and getting the blood flowing where it needs to. Soak in warm-hot water for 20 min, be sure the base of your skull is immersed in water. The water should be a bit warmer then you would usually have it.
- essential oils – There are a few that are good for headaches – relaxing both the mind and muscles; my favourites are eucalyptus and peppermint. You can either put them in an air diffuser or place a few drops on a kleenex and inhale or keep by your pillow. Be aware that peppermint is stimulating and can affect sleep so should not be used prior to or during sleeping.
- fever few tea – A popular herbal remedy made from fever few leaves to treat headaches and migraines. Fever few is also used to relieve pain and inflammation of arthritis and muscle tension. Steep 1 tsp of the leaves (or buy a box of tea bags – both found at health food stores) in 1 cup of boiling water.
- tennis/golf balls – Place two balls in an old sock and tie a knot (see photo). Golf balls are going to provide more intense pressure whereas tennis balls, which are more forgiving, will have less. Lay down on the floor, relax your head and neck and place them under your neck and/or at the bottom of your skull. You may need to place a towel under your neck to prevent them from shifting. Or you might want to gently and slowly move your head around on the tennis balls to further massage the area. You want them to hit trigger points – which can be painful when you have a headache (I think it’s good pain though!) and you can also control the intensity depending on what ball you use or where you place them. Hold the sore spot for 30 seconds if you can, until you slowly start to feel a release. This will also encourage movement and blood flow in the area.
- massage – Grab a friend or family member to gently massage the neck, shoulder and head area. Ideally with one of the mentioned essential oils in a carrier oil (like jojoba or avocado oil), or a balm (as mentioned below) or as I used on my son, Traumeel (a homeopathic cream good for ‘trauma’, hence the name, and relieves bruising, pain and inflammation).
other important factors to help prevent or reduce headaches
• Staying off booze and caffeine helps too (and they could be a cause, too) – even chocolate. None of these if you have a headache.
• Keep in mind spring is season of the liver. It’s good to cleanse/detox your liver in spring so I try to pay attention to this in order to ward off that spring migraine that has made an appearance the last few years. I drink teas like dandelion tea, which detoxes the liver.
• There are balms that you can use on your neck and head that contain ingredients to help soothe headaches or migraines. There’s a new balm out that I’ve been meaning to try called Migraine Serenity Balm and the main ingredient is feverfew extract.
• It might be time for an eye examination.
• Regular full body massages always help keep your body in optimal health, including tension in the neck and shoulders which can lead to headaches.
• Wear a hat &/or sunglasses.
• Drink water! Someone close to me called telehealth TWICE for symptoms of headache, dizziness, blurred vision, etc.. and their advice? “Drink water… you’re dehydrated.”
Anyone who gets a bad headache knows how debilitating they can be. Don’t assume your only relief comes from over the counter pain medication. Put in a little effort to gain big rewards – you’re worth it. Own your health.