I Get Bad Headaches. My Doctor says, I have classic stress headaches, and advised me to take some pain medicine every time I get them. It’s a little irritating how certain he is about his diagnosis- even over my objections that I don’t feel stressed. I would rather not take pain medicine because of the many stories in the news about people who are overdosing on pain medications. This reluctance to take pain medicine sent me on a quest for a less lethal cure. This website is a journal of my journey to educate myself on the possibilities to heal myself. I hope this research may be of benefit to other headache suffers.
What is a stress Headache? After all, I should understand the condition before seeking a cure.
Diagnosis to confirm tension headaches is to rule out disease or medication overuse as being a headaches cause. The Doctor will do a physical examination of your head, neck, eyes, sinuses, and a neurological examination. When markers for disease are missing, and the patient does not overuse pain medication, a tension headache is then confirmed.
Medication overuse can cause persistent headaches because of a rebound effect that happens when pain medications have been taken regularly more than 2 or 3 times a week or more than 10 days out of a month. This overuse can set up a withdrawal reaction cycle which happens when you take more pain medication after the first dose wears off. If you continue in this fashion, the pain will become more severe as the medicine becomes less likely to help. This is more common if the pain medicine has caffeine in it.
There are 2 types of Stress/Tension headaches.
- 1) Episodic Tension Type Headache
Episodic or Occasional tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to a week, occur less than 15 days a month for at least three months, and they may become chronic. They are usually associated with a stressful event, are of moderate intensity, self-resolving without treatment, generally responsive to nonprescription drugs. The majority of episodic tension headaches sufferers have an occurrence of one to two times a month.
- 2) Chronic Tension Type Headache
Chronic means ceaseless- pain without end. The severity of the headaches can vary from mild to severe. The persistent nature of the headaches can be disabling causing an inability to perform well at work or to be very difficult to live with thus, most patients take preventative medication.
This chronic condition tends to develop in people who start off having tension-type headaches with increasing frequency, until they occur on most days. However, the cause of the tension-type headaches is not always clear, and may be more than one thing. In the past, Doctors thought they may be due to tension in the muscles at the back of the head and neck, but a study testing the tension of neck muscles in headache suffers found no difference between them and non-suffers. This is why the term tension-type headache is now used rather than tension headache.
Many headaches develop for no apparent reason. Working long hours bent over a computer may trigger them. Many headache suffers are doing exacting work on a bright back-lit computer screen that it may be causing eye strain enough to result in a headache. Some people report they get tension-type headaches by drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, not drinking enough water, not eating for a long time, or exposure to a very cold day.
Some research suggests that there may be a genetic factor as many families have several members that suffer from these headaches. This happens in my family as 3 of my sisters also have many headaches.
A good way to understand what triggers your tension headache would be to keep a daily diary of diet, activities, sleeping conditions, unpleasant environmental conditions, life stresses, menstruation cycle, and activity level. Examination of the Diary, after several days, with your health professional may lead to a causal agent for your chronic tension headaches. I did keep a diary for about 4 months, and a causal agent of not sleeping well became apparent as a precursor to my headaches. However, I couldn’t seem to shut my brain down well enough to go to sleep which made me realize that perhaps this constant turmoil of thoughts rolling around in my head was the root of my headaches.
Tension headache Pain is generally located in your frontal lobe, forehead, or on the sides and back of your head -people describe it as like a tight band across your head. This sounds a little odd to me as I can relieve my pain somewhat by pushing down with my hands on the top of my head.
Historical cures for Tension headaches.
Feverfew native to the Balkan Mountains was used to relieve headaches, insect bites, and inflammation as early as fifth century B.C. Greece to become common by the first century. Modern uses are in the treatment of Migraines, dizziness, inflammation, and breathing problems. There is questionable benefit to its effectiveness, one study found people taking the herb did help and prevent headaches, and another study found little to no benefit for the majority of migraine sufferers. Feverfew is usually prepared by drying leaves, flowers, and stems- some people eat the leaves raw.
Butterbur is a shrub with very large leaves, up to 3 feet, found in wet marshy areas of Europe, Asia, and North America. It got its name because people once used the leaves of the plant to wrap around Butter in warm weather as a way to prevent melting and to preserve it. Butterbur has been used to treat headaches, asthma, allergies, cough, fever, and gastrointestinal pain. A 2004 study has confirmed evidence from older studies that use of its purified root extract Petasites (50 to 75 mg twice daily) in pill form is good for migraine prevention.
Willow specifically the white willow native to Europe, Asia, North America has been used since 400 B.C. the time of Hippocrates when people would chew the bark, the white pinkish inner bark, for its inflammatory and fever-relieving properties. Willow bark extract was used in the development of aspirin.
Peppermint grows throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The leaves and their oils are used for medicinal and culinary purposes. It is used to treat headaches, spasms, toothaches, gastrointestinal problems, and nausea. Peppermint oil applied to the forehead and temples is an effective treatment for stopping migraine pain and easing nausea.
Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root is used as a spice in cooking or as medicine. It is an herbaceous perennial plant which grows annual stems about a 2 feet tall bearing narrow green leaves and yellow flowers. Ginger has well documented anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Ginger has been used to treat headaches, stomach pain, nausea, arthritis, cold and flu symptoms, neurological problems, and a study by Phytotherapy Research showed that ginger powder benefits were comparable to sumatriptan, a common migraine prescription, but with fewer side effects.
My next headache I rubbed peppermint oil on my temples, and my eyes starting watering and became inflamed so I gave up on that solution. Next headache, I chewed candied Ginger, waited for about a half hour, and my headache seemed less intense which did allow me to resume the functionality of my day. However, I want to be pain free so my journey to a cure continued on to investigate the possibilities of Biofeedback.
Biofeedback Therapy is a method by which a person can control at will biological processes that normally occur involuntarily such as, heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Empowerment is a benefit of this method that this is dependent upon the engagement of the patient rather than the traditional passive role of a patient taking a regiment of drugs. Biofeedback can be of help to the patient with physical ailments or to change destructive thought and behavior patterns in a patient that cause havoc in their personal and public lives.
History of Biofeedback begins as far back as 5000 years ago, when practitioners of Yoga, Brahmans, priests, followed a collection of sacred texts called the Rig Veda. The Vedas were comprised of songs, mantras and rituals to be used to teach the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge by meditation. Through the centuries techniques were developed that explored the connection of the body to the mind to achieve a state of wellbeing in mind and body. This has led to a discipline of Biofeedback where a person learns to exercise healing control over negative psychological outlooks or symptoms of an unhealthy body.
Types of Biofeedback therapy.
- Electromyography (EMG), measures muscle tension.
- Thermal biofeedback measures skin temperature.
- Neurofeedback or electroencephalography (EEG) measures brain wave activity.
- Heart Rate measures the heartbeat or contractions of the heart.
How does Biofeedback work? Only theories attempt to explain why Biofeedback therapy works. When your angry, afraid, and overwhelmed, your sympathetic nervous system prepare the body to meet these emergencies by “flight or fight”. Even though, the threats we now live with are seldom life threatening, the body reacts as if they were, pupils dilate to let in more light, copious sweat is produce making cuts less likely, blood vessels near the skin contract to control bleeding, blood vessels in the brain and muscles dilate to increase the oxygen supply and your heart rate is faster with a rise in blood pressure. During a physical threat, once the danger is past, we calm down. However, in these modern relativity safe times, should we carry a lot of stress from work or anger at conditions beyond our control we fail to calm down, and the “flight or fight” response is habitually aroused causing illness or pain.
Biofeedback’s main goal is to promote relaxation, and feelings of wellbeing. When electrodes are attached to your skin, signals are displayed as representations of your heart and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, muscle activity, and as you learn to relax the display will confirm it. Since, many conditions seem to worsen under stress, the converse may be true, reducing stress should reverse ill health. Meditating to banish negative thoughts or inappropriate behavior will help calm an angry disposition, and lead you to success in your professional and personal life.