Headaches, migraines, and low back pain are the leading cause for people to visit outpatient doctors' offices and ER's. World Health Organization stated in their April 8th, 2016 article that migraines are the "sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability. Headache disorders, in general, were 3rd!
I have suffered from headaches since the age of three. So, for me, it feels like there is a low-key frat party going on 80 percent of the time in my head.
Did you know that 1 out of 7 Americans experiences a migraine annually?
When I was little, I had CT scans and multiple doctors' visits. My mom was advised to cut my hair, get my eyes checked, give me over-the-counter meds, and to change my diet. I still remember the haircut. It was summer of third grade, I went in with hair past my shoulders and left with hair above my ears. Not sure if it helped my headaches, but I took a blow to my confidence. I was reading an article published by the Mayo Clinic that mentioned headaches are just as frequent in children as they are in adults. Children can also experience almost all types of headaches.
By high school, my headaches had graduated to severe weekly migraines. I started taking Imitrex, Physical Therapy, and BIO-feedback. I remember taking so much Excedrin that I was beginning to develop an ulcer, so hence the Imitrex. The doctor and my mom were trying to do everything they could so that I could get to school and stay in all my classes. I never really realized how the headaches had affected me in other ways.
When you have chronic pain for so long, it starts changing you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And you may also experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and the list goes on. Joseph Hullett, MD. mentions in Everyday Health, that pain and mood are controlled by the same area of the brain.
It wasn't until I started massage school that I realized how much massage could help me. We had never really checked into a holistic approach for headaches. I was receiving massage weekly for class purposes, and those massages decreased my migraines significantly. Even my mom could tell with my mood swings. I was also introduced to essential oils, cupping, and other modalities.
Peppermint became my new best friend, as it helped decrease my headaches and migraines.
I wanted to discuss the topic of headaches and migraines with you because recently, my tension headaches flared up again. I had them daily at a pain level of 8. I went back to the doctors for a full panel workup. Everything came back clear; even my eyes are great. I was so upset, and my mom asked me why I wasn't happy that I was healthy. She then went on to mention that there are so many people suffering from headaches and migraines who never get an answer to why. It was difficult to hear what she was saying. I know she's right. I may never understand why. So, I went home and came up with some action plans to tackle them on my own.
Below are a few things to watch and suggestions to help with headaches and migraines. Some are simple, but others may require a change in lifestyle or diet to eliminate certain things that may bring on headaches. Triggers as we like to call them. Some will sound all too familiar to some of you, but it is just a reminder to check in with yourself.
A HEADACHE DIARY- Keep one! I, myself, have failed at this. It's highly recommended, especially if you are not sure what your triggers are.
STRESS - We all have it. How are you handling it?
FOOD - Gluten/Dairy I've recently started to pull some gluten from my diet to see if that would help me. Funny, my mom was never told to take out gluten or dairy from my diet. I love dairy, so this is something I am monitoring.
DRINK MORE WATER - I know. I've mentioned this a time or two before. Drink up!
WATCH CAFFEINE INTAKE - I always think of soda when I think of caffeine…but COFFEE and CHOCOLATE too!
ALLERGIES - I just recently spoke to my doctor about taking Allegra, and since have noticed some relief from some symptoms.
EXERCISE - Boost immune system along with improving overall health.
GET MORE SLEEP - What's sleep, right?!?!
OVER THE COUNTER MEDS - Again for me, if I take too much of something, it tends to increase my headaches.
ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES - MASSAGE, Rolfing, Chiropractor, Acupuncture, even Foam rolling. There is so much out there! Treating the source of the pain, and not just the pain is so much more effective. Recently I wrote a paper about how beneficial massage was, in that paper, I talked about how much money Americans are spending on over the counter medicine, doctor visits, ER visits, and prescription drugs. It's somewhere in the billions, and nine times out of ten; the headaches are still there.
Millions of people suffer from headaches; frequent headaches may lead to chronic pain, and chronic pain can lead to depression. Staying on top of our triggers is what we have to do. We may never find the answer, but we cannot let our headaches define who we are.
Suffer from headaches or migraines? Regular 30-minute sessions for the neck and shoulders are great for relieving headaches. Sometimes talking to others or getting bodywork to increase your awareness of where your tension is hiding can help you figure out what you are doing to trigger them. As massage therapists, we are trained in trigger point, stretching, and other techniques that can relieve chronic pain issues like headaches. Read our blog on how sports bras can trigger headaches.
Schedule an appointment online or call 919-477-9887 with one of our trained massage therapists at Bull City Soles. We have front desk staff Monday through Friday 9 am-2 pm if you'd rather call but online scheduling is faster and more convenient. Be sure to follow Bull City Soles on Instagram or Facebook for last-minute massage availabilities, self-care tips or upcoming events.