Stress can cause headaches as does poor eyesight, postural problems and a host of other issues. Low-grade migraines are a symptom of the menopause and there are seasonal headaches called ‘cluster’ headaches. The causes and relief of headaches can be as simple as popping a pill (or several) or more long term solutions can small changes you can make to your life. The causes and reliefs of various types of headaches are outlined in this blog.
I have to confess that I tend to associate headaches with bad posture and strenuous activity. Because I am a Pilates biomechanic enthusiast I have ‘cognitive dissonance’ you know when something is brought to your attention you suddenly see the same thing everywhere. Like buying a blue car and you notice everyone has a blue car. With my background, I associated headaches with bad posture, which can be relevant but that is not the whole story. Stress is a contributing factor to mine I am sure, but also menopause which I am loathed to admit.
Migraines are a subtype of headache. They’re typically the most debilitating in nature. They’re characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head, as well as sensitivity to light or sound.
What causes migraines?
The causes of migraines are not fully understood, but researchers think that they are caused by changes in levels of brain chemicals. These changes can cause inflammation, which makes blood vessels swell and press on nearby nerves, causing a migraine. Some evidence suggests that these hormonal migraines may ultimately be related to changes in the amount of serotonin in the brain. Genetics has been linked to migraine, so you are more likely to have migraines if they run in your family.
Cluster headaches are seasonal and can be a series of relatively short but extremely painful headaches every day for weeks or months at a time. You tend to get them at the same time each year, such as the spring or autumn. Because of their seasonal nature, they can be mistaken for stress or tension headaches. Cluster headaches are caused by a nerve in your face which creates intense pain around one of your eyes.
Bad posture headaches
As a Pilates and biomechanical enthusiast, I am always looking for postural reasons for a headache – slumped shoulders that draw forward and pull on the muscles of your upper back and strain right over your head to your temples. That is a clear case of posture issues causing your headache and easily solved.
As a BodyPump instructor since 2005, I am also acutely aware of exercise induced headaches. Bad lifting posture and the use of neck muscles rather than upper back and mid-back muscle recruitment.
I have written so much on correct alignment and posture don’t miss What is causing your backache?
Other Physical triggers include:
- eye strain (for example, after looking at a computer screen)
- dental problems (for example, teeth grinding)
- loss of sleep or irregular sleep Don’t miss Sleep how much do you need to perform well?
- strenuous exercise
- tension in the neck or shoulders
Don’t miss Exercises for a stronger core
Trying to go too long without eating raises your cortisol levels and revs you when you are trying to sleep. For instance, if you have done a big workout late in the evening and then attempt to intermittently fast till the next morning your body will feel the stress and produce cortisol. It will affect your sleep which in turn can lead to headaches. Hunger headaches are muscle tension and low blood sugar. Hunger can cause your muscles to tighten up, triggering a tension headache. When your blood sugar drops, your body releases hormones to counter low glucose levels.
Nourishing your body and mind on longer sustaining foods like fats and proteins will help you to stave off hunger pangs and consequential headaches read more increasing your protein Read more: good protein sources for women
Chocolate can bring on an instant headache for me, the sugar rush is a buzz my head find very difficult. The higher the darker chocolate content the easier it is on your body. Coffee is another trigger since it has a half-life of over 5-6 hours it can create more tension in your body and disturb your sleep read more Coffee – how much is too much?
Other dietary triggers can include
- irregular meals
- lack of food (dieting or fasting)
- cheese and citrus fruits
Drinking more water especially when you are fasting is essential. when your brain detest that your water supply is too low it produces histamines (compounds released by cells that cause contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries) to ration and conserve water in case the water shortage continues for a long time. These histamines directly cause pain and fatigue, which is experienced as a headache and lowered levels of energy.
Join the water challenge and avoid dehydration, create a new habit that will last a lifetime.
In medical terms, ʻmenopauseʼ is defined by a woman’s last natural period. However, we generally also use ʻmenopauseʼ to describe the time in life when periods become irregular and hot flushes occur. These symptoms result from changes in the ageing ovaries and can start around ten years before a woman’s last menstrual period. Headaches are common during this time, affecting over 90% of women.
The main reason for worsening migraine during menopause is the fluctuation of oestrogen, lack of oestrogen give some women relief from migraines after menopause but can cause more headaches in the months leading up to it. Hormone levels such as oestrogen and progesterone decline during perimenopause. As menopause progresses, the ovaries produce less oestrogen, and this drop in oestrogen has important effects on various organ systems including your head. Migraines may improve once your menstrual periods stop, but tension headaches often get worse.
Other Emotional triggers
- stress – read more ditch the good girl syndrome
Vitamins and supplements
Magnesium, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and Riboflavin have all been shown to help ease migraine attacks. Complementary and integrative options which include black cohosh, vitamin E.
- Ice. Hold a cold cloth or an ice pack to the painful area on your head or neck. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to protect your skin.
- Relaxation exercises. Try relaxation exercises to lower stress.
- Biofeedback. A posh word for monitoring your headaches, taking notes and monitor how your body responds to stress.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture may improve your headaches and help you relax. Join my next retreat day
- Aerobic exercise and yoga have also proven to be helpful in studies.
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2 responses to “Headache?”
When I have a headache I use peppermint essential oil. It is very rare that this doesn’t work immediately for me. Every now and then I may use an essential oil blend (known as the tension blend), which also zaps headaches. This blend contains ‘wintergreen’ oil (amongst others). Wintergreen contains a natural compound called ‘methylsalicylate’ – which has great pain killing and anti-inflammatory properties. For ladies who are prone to hormonal headaches, hormone balancing oils can help and for those who are unlucky enough to develop migraines, we have had some amazing results with frankincense oil. High quality pure oils (the quality means everything when it comes to essential oils) can be incredible at supporting people through so many health issues, if they prefer a natural approach. Headaches are definitely an area where we have seen great results using essential oils!
What a wonderful addition to my health portfolio thank you for your helpful comments Elizabeth