Headache Articles

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How to Get Rid of - And Prevent - a Tension Headache WITHOUT Taking Pills
by Doug Fogel

Most people can head off an oncoming tension headache if they react quickly enough to the first warning signal.

And what is that? It's tightness in the neck - a sure sign that blood flow to the back of the head is being restricted due to tension, stress, or poor posture.

Many people in today's workplace are predisposed to having muscle tightness in the neck because of the positioning their jobs place them in.

This is especially true of people who hunch over a computer terminal all day. It's also true of those who work at factory jobs, or of executives and secretaries who slouch at their desks with a phone crooked between their neck and ear.

People who practice such poor posture invariably find their neck, shoulders and upper back tightening up.

Remaining in poor posture for extended periods puts a strain on already tense muscles. Fatigue sets in as blood flow decreases, resulting in knots and muscle spasms. This causes even tighter muscles and more severe symptoms, which cause tension headaches.

Unless changes in posture are taken, the headaches will occur more often and become progressively worse.

Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can be taken to help prevent this vicious circle:

1. Sit up straight and stand up straight. In other words, assume the military position: shoulders back, head up, chest out, stomach tight.

2. People who sit all day should get a chair with good back support.

3. Bring your work surface closer to you. For example, if your job involves stooping down to your work station, elevate it on a platform so    you don't have to bend down so low.

4. Take several breaks during the day to perform a series of stretching and isometric exercises. These can be done sitting or standing.

a. With your hands behind your back, gently pull your shoulders back and maintain this position for one to three minutes.

b. Turn your head halfway to the right (or left). Then drop your head forward until you feel slight tension. Let the weight of your head        gently stretch the neck muscles. Go slowly - no pain! Hold this position for up to two minutes, then turn to the opposite side and        repeat.

So what should be done if you already have a tension headache?

1. Perform the previously mentioned stretching exercise in 4a.

2. Apply moist heat on the neck and shoulders, a towel soaked in very warm water, for example. If moist heat is impractical or isn't        available, use dry heat.

3. Get someone to give your neck and shoulders a deep tissue massage.

These simple steps will help prevent tension headaches.

Doug Fogel is co-author of "How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches," a holistic program that he's used to help people from all over the world get rid of their tension headaches.

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Natural Remedies for Headaches
by Charlotte Sneddon

Natural remedies for headaches are effective, gentle and soothing. Holistic remedies treat the cause of the headache, not just mask the pain.

Most importantly, they don’t have the same nasty side effects as conventional treatments. Natural remedies are certainly worth a second look….

Headaches are very common – and there are many different types of headache too…and just as many causes…

You can soldier on through some headaches, but some simply demand silence and a darkened room…

Painkillers are probably the first thing you reach for whenever you get a headache. Occasional use of mild painkillers shouldn’t be too much of a problem… but did you know that if you regularly use painkillers to dull your headache, you could actually be making it worse…?

Regular use of painkillers, means you end up needing to take more and more to get the same effect – so gradually making your headache worse and worse – until even your high strength painkillers don’t help!

This is just one, in a long list of nasty side effects that conventional painkillers have on your body. They also cause damage to the stomach, liver and kidneys – possibly leading to more health problems …. really, it’s not what you want!

Natural remedies for headaches are a gentle alternative …. and just as effective …. Just without the troublesome side effects.

Depending on the cause of your headache, there are lots of natural health remedies you might want to try. Some you can easily prepare in your kitchen, at home … others might require the skills of a trained practitioner … so it is up to you to choose the remedy that suits your situation best….

Treatments that you can take long term, with the help of a qualified practitioner, are acupuncture, acupressure, head and neck massage and osteopathy.

You may also find relaxation treatments are beneficial, especially for tension headaches. You can do these at home, or with a trained practitioner. Some you might want to try are: yoga, massage, hypnotherapy, massage.

You can also get more calming and relaxing effects by using Flower Remedies or the relaxation herbs, such as Camomile, Passion flower or Lemon Balm.

Why not try essential oils as a very effective natural remedy for headache, that can work in minutes. Aromatherapy essential oils that usually do the trick, are peppermint, lavender and rosemary. This usually involves a gentle head massage as well, or using hot or cold compresses on the head.

Some foods can affect your headache too. There may be foods that you are allergic to, or sensitive to. And there are food types that commonly cause headaches in lots of people – caffeine, chocolate, strong cheese, red wine, processed meats, additives and sweeteners. These can easily be avoided, once you have identified your triggers.

Certain foods can actually help with your headache – particularly spicy foods such as horseradish or cayenne pepper. These remedies are most useful for sinus headaches. This type of headache also responds well to steam inhalations too.

Herbal remedies that you can try at home include: Cayenne, Ginger, Peppermint, Passion flower, Valerian, Oregano and Ginkgo Biloba. Feverfew is said to be one of the best herbs for effective treatment of migraines.

I think one of the strangest natural remedies for headaches is warm cabbage leaves on the head…. Does it work …? I don’t know … I’ve never tried it! But it is meant to be very effective!

Whether you choose to put cabbage leaves on your head, or not, is completely up to you. Natural remedies for headaches are gentle, versatile and actually very effective.

Well worth a try – you may find you never go back to the painkillers…!

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Classic migraine is a one-sided, severe, throbbing headache, often weeded by some sort of "aura" (visual disturbances are common), and accompanied by nausea and vomiting, This disorder has so many variants, however, that talk of a classic type may confuse people and make diagnosis more difficult.  In women, migraine almost always disappears during pregnancy, a good diagnostic feature of this headache.

Migraine is most unpleasant for patients, often putting them out if action for days at a time, as well as frustrating for doctors, who often find that it resists their best efforts at treatment. Allopathic doctors dose migraine sufferers with a great many strong drugs, Dme of which do more harm than good.

The vascular instability that is the immediate cause of this headache is influenced by many factors. Allergy often plays a role, since i many sufferers specific foods trigger attacks. Hormonal fluctuatons are a factor, at least in women. Not only does pregnancy block migraines, birth control pills can make them happen. Stress is clearly involved, too, as is heredity. It may be impossible to disentangle all the elements that lead to migraine in an individual case.  Some recommendations for bringing migraine under control are as follows:

  • Eliminate coffee and decaffeinated coffee from your life, as well all other sources of caffeine. Make sure you are not taking any OTC or prescription drugs that contain it. Once you are off caffeine, you can use coffee as a treatment for migraine. Drink one or two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of an attack, then lie down in dark, quiet room.

  • Eliminate other common dietary triggers of migraine: chocolate, wine (red is usually more of an offender than white, but both can do it), all strong-flavored cheeses (cottage cheese and cream cheese are all right), fermented foods (including soy sauce and miso), sardines, anchovies, and pickled herring.

  • Take fever few herb, one or two capsules a day. Make sure the product you buy specifies that the leaves are freeze-dried or that it is a standardized extract. This remedy reduces the frequency of migraine attacks in many people. You can stay on it indefinitely.

  • Take a course of biofeedback training, with the specific goal of learning to raise the temperature of your hands. Once you master this technique, it will be a tool you can use to abort a headache at the start of an attack.

  • Use allopathic medication sparingly and cautiously. Experiment with the prescription drug ergotamine to abort migraine attacks. It is a powerful constrictor of arteries that must be used at the very first sign of a headache to be effective. An under-the-tongue form is available, or use the suppository form if nausea is a problem. Your doctor will tell you how to use this drug.

  • Do not take the prescription drug Fiorinal on a regular basis. Doctors hand it out like candy to migraine sufferers without warning them that it contains an addictive downer (butalbital, a barbiturate) and caffeine in addition to aspirin.

  • Do not take prednisone or other steroids to prevent migraines. The dangers of steroids outweigh any benefits.

  • If you continue to have attacks, try to change the way you think about the headaches. Migraine is like an electrical storm in the head, violent and disruptive but leading to a calm, clear state at the end. It is not so bad to let yourself have a headache once in a while. Take coffee and aspirin or ergotamine, lie down in a dark room, and be with your headache. It is a good excuse to drop your usual routines and go inward, letting accumulated stress dissipate. As you come to accept migraine in this way and see it as serving a purpose in your life, you may not have to have it so frequently.

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Sinus Problems

Sinusitis, both acute and chronic, causes great misery. The worst cases seen are in cigarette addicts, but people who suffer from upper respiratory allergies may also develop bad sinus problems (pain, headache, congestion, postnasal drip, obstructed breathing, and so forth). Regular doctors treat sinusitis with a lot of drugs (antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, and steroids) and sometimes with surgery.

Sinus sufferers may want to try a number of actions :

Eliminate milk and all milk products from the diet, including prepared foods that list milk as an ingredient. An overwhelming majority of patients report dramatic improvement in sinus conditions after two months of this dietary change.

  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not spend time around smokers or in smoky environments.
  • Consider moving if you live in a smoggy area.
  • Equip your home with air filters
  • Practice nasal douching regularly and use this technique as a treatment for acute sinus infections also.
  • At the start of sinus trouble, put hot wet towels over the whole upper face. Work up to as much heat as you can stand and keep applying them for fifteen minutes. Do this three or four times a day. It is an excellent home treatment for sinus congestion and sinusitis, since it promotes drainage and increases blood flow to the area.

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Breathing Exercises

Breathing strongly influences mind, body, and moods. By simply putting your attention on your breathing, without even doing anything to change it, you move in the direction of relaxation. There are many worse places to have your attention - on your thoughts, for one, since thoughts are the source of much of our anxiety, guilt, and unhappiness. Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on upsetting thoughts.

The single most effective relaxation technique is conscious regulation of breath. It is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere.

Although you can do the exercise in any position, when first learning to do it be seated with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • First exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Next close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Next hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Then exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  • Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and mote deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. I would like you to do it at least twice a day, You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

You may also notice an immediate shift in consciousness after four of these breaths, a feeling of detachment or lightness or dreaminess, for example. That shift is desirable and will increase with repetition. It is a sign that you are affecting your involuntary-nervous system and neutralizing stress. Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens, before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.

Everyone can benefit from this exercise.

The reason for keeping the tongue in that position. Yoga philosophy describes two "nerve currents" in the human body, one positive, electric, and solar, the other negative, magnetic, and lunar. These begin and end at the tip of the tongue and the ridge behind the upper front teeth. Putting those structures in contact is supposed to complete a circuit, keeping the energy of the breath within instead of letting it dissipate. There may not be any correlation between these ideas and Western concepts of physiology, but since yogis have been doing this exercise for thousands of years, it seems worth following their instructions exactly.

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Remove Obstacles to Relaxation

Caffeine and other stimulant drugs activate the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares us for emergencies, for "flight or fight" responses. These drugs make us more jumpy, anxious, and fearful and thus often interfere with relaxation, rest, and sleep. Coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate are used so unconsciously in our culture that most users have no idea they are mind-altering drugs. Caffeine is an ingredient of many over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

If you want to lower your level of internal stress and develop your ability to relax and let go of external annoyances, a good place to begin is to eliminate caffeine and its relatives from your life. Cocaine and amphetamines (speed) are illegal stimulants with similar effects. A legal stimulant to watch out for is phenylpropanolamine (PPA), the chief ingredient of over-the-counter diet pills and a common drug in over-the-counter cold remedies.

Another is pseudoephedrine, usually sold as a decongestant (as in Sudafed). Some products sold in health food stores as tonics, energizers, and diet aids contain stimulant plants, especially guarana (a caffeine source from South America), yerba mate (ditto), and ma huang or Chinese ephedra (source of ephedrine). Because of their action on the sympathetic nervous system, all stimulants, whether natural or synthetic, in the form of teas or pills, are obstacles to relaxation.

Sound has a profound influence on the nervous system. Some kinds of sound increase our level of arousal and make us tense and anxious. Consider the noise of sirens outside your window or the sounds of people arguing. How do they make you feel?

Music has special power to affect consciousness. It is often the soundtrack of a scary movie more than the images on the screen that gives you chills and goosebumps.

Many cultures around the world recognize this power of music. Some forbid it (Islamic fundamenalists), others use it in rituals designed to alter consciousness (voodooists). The essential tool of the shaman is a drum. By using the right rhythms, he or she can leave the physical body and journey to the spirit realm.

In Bali ensembles of gong players and drummers (have roused warriers to frenzied violence.

In African religions drum-fining is a highly developed art, capable of inducing spectacular changes in awareness, including sexual excitement, trance, spirit possession, and even complete loss of consciousness.

It is well documented that some of these African rhythms have found their way into our popular music through the development of jazz and rock'n'roll.

There is no objection to this music as entertainment , but what about its effect on the human nervous system when it is background noise, taken in unconsciously. For example, while stopped in city traffic a car next to to you has music with an exciting beat blaring from the tape deck. Drivers and passengers act as if nothing is amiss, just some music to make the drive more interesting. City driving is usually stressful enough without having the nervous system roused further by stimulating rhythms.  Not only rock music has this effect, when flipping through the bands of you car radio, a great deal of the music promotes internal tension that interferes with relaxation.

In a way, choosing which sounds to let into your consciousness and which to exclude is like making choices about foods. It is a question of nutrition in a broader sense, of mental nutrition, if you will. If you want to be excited, stimulated, sexually aroused, or prepared for physical violence, by all means listen to the readily available sounds that move you toward those states. If you want to relax and dissipate the tension resulting from external stress, do not make it harder for yourself by receiving those influences.

News can also affect our mental state profoundly, Most news reports increase anxiety, give us new possibilities for worry, and play on our desire for emotional stimulation. Many people are addicted to reading newspapers and news magazines and to listening to news on radio and television. Like caffeine addiction, news addiction is a major roadblock to learning to relax.

Is it really necessary to know about murders in a distant city or about the latest oil spill or the hideous acts of terrorists?  A great deal of the most upsetting news is of no relevance to our daily lives and that when an event is important enough to concern us, we find out about it soon enough.

Be aware that news producers select and edit events for "journalistic value." Stories that excite and titillate, that cause anxiety and concern over developments to come have greater journalistic value than those that do not. Do not absorb this information unconsciously and habitually. Notice the effect it has on your mental equilibrium. Experiment with breaking the news habit, then use your power of choice to tune into news selectively and consciously.

Agitated minds of other people will agitate your mind. A kind of resonance takes place in the realm of consciousness. If you are in the presence of calm, centered persons, your internal tension diminishes, and you let go of some of your stress without making any effort to do so. If you are in the presence of people who are excited, angry, and anxious, you will naturally move toward those states. Pay attention to your internal responses to the people you associate with. As much as possible, avoid the company of agitated minds.

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Headaches:  Different Causes & Remedies

In no other condition is it so important to make a correct diagnosis, since different kinds of headaches require very different treatments. Your doctor must take the time to ask patients about all the details of their headaches: how often they occur, what time of day, what part of the head is involved, whether pain is throbbing or steady, what makes it better and worse, what other symptoms accompany it, and so on. Many people who develop headaches fear they have brain tumors, but if you were to list causes of headache in order of probability, brain tumor would be near the bottom.

Right at the top of the list would be muscle tension. Tension headaches usually begin in the afternoon or early evening and produce steady pain that comes up the neck and back of the head. The muscles of the neck and shoulders may be sore and will feel tight to a trained body worker.  Tension headache is a very common stress-related disorder, and the best way to get rid of it is to remove the obstacles to relaxation

Massage can be a godsend to tension headache sufferers, even a garden-variety neck and shoulder rub can do wonders. Eliminate caffeine from your life; it increases muscle tension as well as anxiety. Practice breathing exercises.

Taking aspirin or other pain relievers on a regular basis is not the way to deal with this malady.

Musculoskeletal problems in the upper back and neck can produce headaches that resemble tension headaches. Try osteopathic manipulation from a doctor trained in craniosacral technique.

Steady headache pain that occurs in the forehead or around the eyes often comes from eyestrain or pressure in the sinuses.  What you can do for sinus headachesHave your eyes checked if you have not done so in a while.

Very high blood pressure can produce headache that typically occurs in the back of the head and is present on waking. If you have frequent or persistent headaches you should make sure your blood pressure is not elevated.

Throbbing headache arises from an imbalance in the arteries of the head and so is called "vascular." The commonest type of vascular headache is migraine. "Migraine" is not simply a name for a bad headache. It is a particular disorder with many variant forms.

A rarer type of vascular headache is the cluster headache, so called because it occurs in clusters over several days or weeks. It may come at the same time of day every day for two weeks, then disappear for months. The pain of cluster headache is severe, typically one-sided, and has distinctive associated symptoms, such as redness and tearing of the eye on the affected side, runny nose or nasal stuffiness, and visible swelling of blood vessels on the affected side of the head. The prescription drug ergotamine is effective for aborting and preventing attacks. Follow the recommendations for migraine as well.

Vascular headache is also the chief symptom of caffeine withdrawal as well as a common symptom of caffeine addiction. Anyone prone to vascular headaches should avoid using this drug on a regular basis.

If you have headaches that appear sudden in severity, you should go to a physician for diagnostic evaluation.

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The information contained on this site is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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A Stretch To Keep Chronic Tension Headaches Away

You know the feeling - you're hard at work at your computer when you notice the back of your neck tightening up. You know from experience this tightness is warning you that another tension headache is coming.

But you don't have to get a tension headache. Just do a quick little stretch and you'll head off that headache with ease.

It's a simple, behind-the-back stretch. It can be done sitting or standing.

If you're going to sit, make sure you have a chair with backing that comes halfway up your back.

Hook your arms over the back of the chair and pull your shoulder blades together (if you're standing, assume the military position: head up, shoulders back and stomach tight).

As you do this, make sure you stick your chest out. As this is very important, you should exaggerate a little bit - and make sure you keep you head up, too.

Pull your shoulder blades together until you feel a pull in your shoulder joints. Don't go overboard on this. You don't want to cause any pain.
Now hold this stretch for three full minutes (don't cheat and quit early the length of this stretch is very important).

At the end of this stretch, you should feel your back muscles loosen a bit. You may even feel a warm rush of blood up the back of your neck.
Take breaks throughout the day to perform this stretch - it will prevent tension headaches!

Moist Heat

Moist heat, like a damp towel heated in a microwave, or a microwavable heat pack, can do wonders to get rid of a tension headache.  It works by increasing blood flow to the back of the head.

If you've got chronic tension headaches, it supplies blood to the back of the head by way of auxiliary blood vessels, as the primary blood vessels are most likely partially pinched off due to muscle spasms in the neck, shoulders and/or upper back.

It also helps loosen up tight muscles, which relieves this pinching of primary blood vessels somewhat.

I also recommend using moist heat before and after our soft-tissue treatment, which is the cornerstone of our "How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches" program.  The reason is that moist heat will loosen up the muscles to be treated, making for a more effective session.

And using it afterward helps aid recovery of the muscles.

The great thing about moist heat is you can use it as often as you like.  

Unfortunately, it only addresses the symptoms...

- it does nothing to get rid of scarred down muscle spasms
- but it does address symptoms holistically.

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How To Get Rid of Your Headache The All Natural Way
By, Frank Mangano

Here’s an article that I believe can benefit almost anyone. Why? Because almost anyone and everyone suffers from headaches, some more frequently than others. In fact, every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room with a headache or migraine. Plus, more than $1 billion is spent on over-the-counter medications to treat headaches and Migraines.

Migraine headaches are known as vascular headaches, meaning they result from excessive blood flow into the head, which causes pressure. The cause of migraines ranges from stress and tension to hormonal changes to allergic reactions. Genetic predisposition, learned habits, certain medications, dietary factors, psychological problems, physical disturbances, environmental factors, body structural problems and lifestyle factors can also be attributed to causing headaches.

What you may find most astonishing however, is that some medications including those designed to treat headaches including those used to treat headaches can actually cause them. Use of these medications can lead to "medication overuse headache" (MOH). Over the past 15 years, researchers from Princeton University have determined that these medications are most responsible for causing headaches.

· Triptans, a newer class of drugs, increased headaches from 0 percent to 22 percent

· Analgesics (painkillers) increased from 8 percent to 32 percent

· Overuse headache from combinations of acute medications increased from 10 percent to 23 percent

Based on these statistics alone, one should implement the application of alternative and natural methods to treating headaches. These methods include massage, stretching, aromatherapy, gel pack hydrotherapy application, herbs, acupuncture, stress reduction methods, chiropractic or osteopathic and homeopathic treatments.

My top recommendation to relieve headaches naturally is acupuncture. According to the British Medical Journal, July 29, researchers in Germany performed a study that involved dividing 270 patients with similar symptoms into three groups for a randomized, controlled trial. Over an eight-week period, the three 3 groups were treated using 3 techniques. The first was treated with full traditional acupuncture, the second with minimal acupuncture, and the third with neither method.

Headache rates dropped by almost half in the group that was treated with “traditional acupuncture.” They also experienced 7 fewer days of headaches in the four weeks following the trial than they did in the four weeks prior to it.

The results of those in the “minimal acupuncture group” were very similar. They experienced an average drop of 6.6 days with headaches.

The third group which had no acupuncture performed on them saw an average drop of only 1.5 days. That’s just 10% less than what they had experienced prior to the study.

The conclusion that the researchers came to is that acupuncture is just as effective as or more effective in treating tension headaches than treatments already accepted.

Aside from acupuncture, here are 6 tips to treat headache pain:

  1. At the first sign of pain, give yourself a mini-massage. Press gently using the pads of your fingers and rub the scalp, back of the neck, temples and shoulders.

  1. Apply hot or cold treatment or alternate between the two. To apply hot treatments, you can take a hot bath or shower, or place a hot, wet washcloth or heating pad on the back of your neck. Foe cold treatments, place an ice pack on your forehead, the back of your neck or the top of your head.

  1. Just a few drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil into your bath will work wonders as well. Or you can even some on your temples, the nape of the neck and the hairline.

  1. Feverfew which is an herbal tea is also a great choice as well as chamomile and peppermint as they are calming.

  1. Supplements work great if you suffer from headaches frequently. Calcium and magnesium relieve muscular tension. Bromelain reduces inflammation and glucosamine sulfate can help to relieve pain.

  1. Drink a glass of pure water every two hours. Water will flush out toxins and also keep the head and neck muscles supple.

So the next time you feel a headache coming on, take a look at the stats and flush the meds down the toilet. Remember, there’s always a healthy alternative..

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Herbal Pain Killer: Better Than Tylenol?

Did You Know...   that there's an aromatic herb that relieves the pain of tension headaches just as quickly as aspirin and over-the-counter analgesics, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol)?

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches experienced by a vast cross-section of the population.  Statistics show that 95% of women and 90% of men have at least one headache per year, and approximately 1 out of every 6 people in America experience the agony of chronic tension headaches. 

As a result, most of us reach out for common over-the-counter headache medications, especially those containing acetaminophen, the most commonly used painkiller in the country today.  On average, 7.3 billion adult Tylenol tablets are consumed annually.

But take heed:  Each year, acetaminophen use causes 100,000 calls to poison control centers, 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths from liver failure alone.  Acetaminophen is a leading cause of acute liver failure, even at doses that are within the recommended range.

In May 2009, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration working group released a report urging stronger warnings and stricter dose limits for drugs that, like Tylenol, contain acetaminophen -- and hence may pose an increased risk of liver injury to those who use them improperly.

The ironic thing is that the use of acetaminophen may not be the most effective way to stop headaches.  Here's why:  Headache pain does not originate from inside the brain.  The brain is incapable of feeling pain because it contains no sensory nerves.  The pain actually comes from tension in the outer linings of the brain, the scalp and its blood vessels and muscles.  Common tension headaches occur when the face, neck and scalp tighten up, and that tightening is often induced by stress.

Since headaches originate from the outer surface of the head, peppermint oil has been used to alleviate the pain.  German research headed by Dr. Hartmut Gobel shows that rubbing peppermint oil on one's forehead is just as effective in relieving headaches as taking a headache medication like Tylenol.  

Researchers have long known that peppermint oil, whose main constituent is menthol, has an analgesic and cooling effect when applied on the skin.  Menthol calms and soothes the excited nerve fibers in the painful region and can quickly make the pain subside.

Historians report that Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, personal friend of the emperor Vespasian, and a writer and investigator of natural and geographic phenomena, recommended applying peppermint leaves to the forehead to treat headaches. 

In 1996, the leading headache researchers at the Neurological Clinic at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany showed clinical proof that peppermint oil applied to the forehead indeed reduces headache pain just as effectively as the standard dose of 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen (or 2 tablets of Tylenol).  Dr. Hartmut Gobel's randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study also proved that peppermint oil is just as effective at relieving headaches as acetaminophen.

In addition to relieving headaches, peppermint oil also has other therapeutic uses:

  • Helps relieve gas, bloating, nausea, cramping and stomach upset
  • Muscle tension and pain relief - since it increases the blood flow to the injured area, it aids in healing as well
  • Helps alleviate stress
  • Helps alleviate motion sickness
  • Eases irritable bowel syndrome

Peppermint oil is available at Whole Foods and other health food stores.

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