A headache or cephalgia is pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. It can be a symptom of a number of different conditions of the head and neck. The brain tissue itself is not sensitive to pain because it lacks pain receptors. Rather, the pain is caused by disturbance of the pain-sensitive structures around the brain. Nine areas of the head and neck have these pain-sensitive structures, which are the cranium, muscles, nerves, arteries and veins, subcutaneous tissues, eyes, ears, sinuses and mucous membranes.
Headaches are generally classified into two main types: primary headaches and secondary headaches.
A migraine, which is a disabling, recurring headache that frequently occurs only on one side of the head. A Migraine is one type of primary headache. A migraine is a chronic headache in which blood vessels constrict and dilate, releasing inflammatory substances that cause painful pulsations. The mild to severe pain can last from four hours up to a week, two to four times a month and often results in other symptoms.
Causes of Primary Headaches
There is little research to confirm the exact cause of Primary headaches. Primary headaches occur because of physical or emotional stress placed on the body.
For example, these stressors can cause the muscles surrounding the skull to clench the teeth and go into spasm. Physical stressors include difficult and prolonged manual labour, or sitting at a desk or computer for long periods of time concentrating. Emotional stress also may cause tension headaches by causing the muscles surrounding the skull to contract.
Tension headaches are commonly attributed to the following factors:
Primary headaches include Migraine Headaches, Tensions Headaches and Cluster Headaches. The symptoms of each are discussed below.
Symptoms of a Migraine Headache
A migraine headache can range from moderate to severe, causing intense pulsing, throbbing or pounding sensations in your head. Usually one side of the head is affected, however in some cases both sides may be affected. Other distressing symptoms include:
Treatment of Headaches
The ideal treatment for tension headaches depends on many factors, including the patient’s overall physical and mental health and lifestyle.
The Allopathic approach to the treatment of Headaches can include the following:
Painkillers – such as aspirin, acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol), naproxen and ibuprofen. Prescription drugs are also available for more severe symptoms.
Patients with severe migraine or headache who are hospitalized may benefit from intravenous medications.
Combination drugs – aspirin or acetaminophen may be combined with a sedative or caffeine.
Triptans and opiates – for sufferers of both migraines and tension headaches. Triptans are effective in relieving the symptoms of both tension headaches and migraines. With opiates there is a risk of dependency and unpleasant side effects.
Scientists at The University of Adelaide in Australia reported on a study that found that frequent and large doses of codeine can result in greater sensitivity to pain.
Other Treatment/Management Options
Hot or cold showers – some people find that taking a shower helps. While one person may benefit from a hot shower, others may find a cold one gives better results.
Lifestyle – some simple changes in lifestyle may reduce, and sometimes completely eliminate the recurrence of headaches. Getting enough sleep, doing plenty of exercise, stretching the neck and back muscles regularly may be all you need.
Diet – are you eating properly? A good diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, minerals and fiber will help you stay in good health and might help reduce the intensity and frequency of your headaches.
Depression – if the tension headache is chronic (long-term), there is a chance you could be suffering from depression.
Stretching and strengthening modalities – Yoga and Pilates create flexibility and strength throughout the body. Helping to release tension and engage core muscles which improve balance and posture as well as create mobility throughout the body. This will help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal and physiological dysfunction which catalyses the onset of the headache.
A headache diary – if you keep a diary it may help you identify your headache triggers. When a headache starts write down when it started, include notes of what you drank and ate during the previous 24 hours. Note down how long you had slept, whether it was a good night’s sleep, when you slept. Record in your diary what was happening in your life immediately prior to the onset of your headache – were you under unusual stress? Write down how long the headache lasted, and if you can, what made it stop.
Bowen Therapy Headache/Migraine Treatment
Bowen Therapy is a holistic healing modality. This means that no ailment is treated in isolation – the entire body is addressed as a whole. This is particularly effective in the treatment of headaches and migraines, which may have multiple potential causes.
Allopathic treatments are largely focused on the symptoms (such as the throbbing pain in your head) as opposed to the cause – which may originate from one or more underlying musculoskeletal and/or physiological dysfunctions.
Bowen Therapy offers an effective alternative treatment for both acute and chronic primary headaches, including migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, etc. Bowen Therapy is a natural, holistic approach to healing, using precise, targeted stimuli to activate the central nervous system – addressing dysfunctions within the body and activating the body’s natural ability for self-regulation and healing – thus restoring balance. This is referred to as “homeostasis”.
Secondary headaches require immediate medical attention, as they are attributed to potentially life-threatening ailments, which may require chronic medication and/or surgical intervention. Bowen Therapy does, however offer alternative/complementary post-treatment options. Bowen Therapy can work alongside allopathic treatments to support the healing process, improve overall health and well-being and strengthen the immune system.