Got a headache? Painkillers are not the solution

By Dr Savitha Suri

Mar 23, 2017: Ooch! That shooting pain is back again; that terrible ache inside the skullis killing…You become irritable and cry out for a quick relief. But before popping a painkiller, try to discover and address the underlying imbalance.

What happens in your body?

The skull bones and brain tissues do not have pain sensitive nerve fibers. But muscles of face, mouth, throat, neck, scalp and blood vessels of the brain are sensitive to pain. Various causes like stress, muscle tension, lack of sleep stimulate the tips of these nerve fibers, which sends message to the nerve cells of the brain. When the brain locates the region of the stimulated nerve tip, we feel the pain.

According to ayurveda, health can be maintained only if there is a balance of the three doshas. Disease results whenever there is an imbalance in the proportion of these doshas. This imbalance result in headache, too. Our body produces natural painkilling proteins called endorphins. One of the theories suggests that people with low endorphin levels suffer from severe headache and other chronic pains.

Muscle tension
Missed meals
Vigorous exercise
Sexual excitement
Infections like common cold, flu, fever, ear infection, tooth infection, sinus infection, pneumonia, etc
Too much coughing
Excessive alcohol, stress, fatigue, tension, tiredness, excessive smoking
Eye problems
Systemic or metabolic conditions, hypertension, thyroid, anemia, kidney problems, uremia
Meningitis, encephalitis, head injury, heatstroke, sunstroke
Before, during, or after menstruation
Medications (many pain-relieving drugs actually cause headache)

Common types of headaches

Tension headache: Also called stress headaches and muscular headaches, it is a mild to moderate headache that may last minutes or days and tends to recur. Caused by tightening of muscles of face and neck, it is characterised by a dull ache in the forehead, or back of the head, and pain in the neck and shoulders, which gradually travels to the head. Less sleep, stress, reading or working on the computer for long hours can precipitate tension headache.

Migraine headache: Migraine is caused when blood vessels in the head get dilated or constricted. It is moderate to severe one-sided headache that pulsates or throbs. It gets worse with activity and there are additional symptoms like nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and an increased sensitivity to noise, light or smell. Some people experience flashing lights before the headache. Women are more prone to this migrane headache. Migraine also tends to be hereditary.

Menstruation, caffeine, alcohol, aged cheese, cured meat, stress, change in sleeping pattern, strenuous exercise trigger migraine headache.

Sinus headache: It surfaces when fluids in the nose get blocked, building up pressure in the sinuses. Cold, dust, dirty or polluted water, air travel may cause sinus headache. This type of headache causes pain in the forehead, cheek bones and nose. It aggravates when you bend your face or touch the area of pain.

Home remedies

For tension headache

  • Massage a few drops of peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil on the temples.
  • Massage the scalp with luke warm sesame oil. This relieves tension headache and induces sleep.
  • Regular exercise, yoga and meditation reduce stress levels and keep tension headache at bay.
  • Persons of vata type can use hot water bags on aching parts and a hot shower.
  • Persons of pitta type can use cold or ice packs on aching parts and wrap a wet cloth round neck.

For migraine headache

  • Make a note of the causes and food that trigger this type of headache. Try to avoid those causes. Also avoid spicy foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, onion and garlic, citrus fruits except lemon.
  • Try muscle relaxation exercises. Progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and yoga bring definite relief. Relax at least half-an-hour everyday by listening to music, taking hot water bath or gardening.
  • Make sure that you get enough sleep but don?t oversleep. Avoid sleeping in the afternoon.
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room when you feel a headache.
  • Place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck and apply gentle pressure to the painful areas on your scalp.

For sinus headache

  • Breathe in warm, moist air.
  • Moist the nasal passages with the help of saline nasal spray. A saline spray can be used up to six times a day.
  • Do not smoke.

Try these…

  • Massage eucalyptus oil on back, shoulders and forehead. Somebody has to do this for you. Press the base of the skull with gentle pressure and release the pressure slowly.
  • Apply a paste of sandalwood powder on fore head.
  • Massage head with warm sesame oil, mustard oil or almond oil.
  • Grind clove, cinnamon together with little water and apply it on the places where you have headache.
  • Grind little jaggery with ginger juice. Put 2 drops of this in each nostril.

Dr Savitha Suri is an ayurvedic practitioner. She is a regular health columnist

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