Best Ten Ways To Avoid Migraines

The problem with migraine prevention is that there isn’t just one cause for the headaches. There are very many triggers for migraines, in fact, and trying to avoid them all would be an exercise in hermitry. Who wants to spend the rest of their life living in a cave just to avoid headaches? That being said, there are a few things you can do to avoid migraines and here are the top ten.

1) Cut the caffeine. Among the multitude of products linked to migraines is caffeine. Taking in too much can lead to a headache of monstrous proportions. Unfortunately, it’s not only too much caffeine that lead to a headache, it’s caffeine withdrawal if you’re used to taking in a lot. Best to cut back slowly.

2) While we’re talking about caffeine, let’s also talk about NutraSweet. Aspartame has been the culprit for many people who have complained of migraines. Go in search of why aspartame causes migraines and you will run into what seems like the biggest cover-up since Roswell. Most of what you’ll read hasn’t been proven, but then again neither have the makers of NutraSweet proven that their product doesn’t contribute to migraines. Avoid it and you may well avoid a horrendous headache.

3) There are more reasons to give up smoking than you can count, but avoiding migraines is another reason to put on the list. Of course, that’s easier than said than done if you are the smoker, but remember, secondhand smoke is just as likely to cause a migraine headache as actual smoking. So if you can, remove yourself from the environment in which people are smoking. Better yet: Get them to remove themselves. You do have the right to not have to be around their smoke, especially if their smoke is causing your headaches.

4) Establish a regular pattern of sleeping and waking. In fact, get as anal-retentive as you can about this. A regular pattern of going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, on weekends as well as weekdays, can do wonders. Many people who have instituted a rigid routine of sleeping and waking have discovered that their migraines disappear completely and forever. Or at least as long as they continue the pattern.

5) Give up the pill and try another form of contraception. Birth control pills and their effects on hormones can be a major hazard when it comes to migraine pain. You don’t necessarily have to go off the pill entirely. Some people have found that merely changing brands puts an end to their migraine misery. If that doesn’t help, however, you may look into other forms of female contraception or, if you and your partner don’t mind, switching over to condoms.

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6) Change your lighting. Very bright lights can often trigger very severe migraines. You might consider using the softer, filmy kind of light bulbs. Or use lamps instead of overhead lights. Or stop using fluorescent lighting, if that’s possible. If you spend a lot of time at the computer monitor, take frequent breaks and get as far away from the pulsating waves of the monitor as possible.

7) Cheese, chocolate and wine may sound like the ideal ingredients for a romantic picnic, but if you are prone to migraines the last thing you may be feeling is romantic following that afternoon getaway. Aged cheeses especially are dangerous because they contain the amino acid tyramine. Chocolate contains phenylethamine. Both chemicals contribute to migraines and alcohol is a trigger as well. Stay away from all three and find other ways to get in a romantic mood.

8) Use body wash to smell good instead of perfume or cologne. Odors and aromas are major causes of migraines and those that make you smell good are among the worst. Keep yourself clean instead of daubing with the smelly-goods.

9) Being an aerobic exercise program. Exercising regularly helps to increase your cardiovascular capacity and improper blood flow is linked to recurrent migraines.

10) Driver or take a train when you can instead of flying. The lowering of cabin pressure on airplanes is a sure-fire migraine trigger and one easily avoided when the trip can be made by alternative means of transportation.

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Exploring The Many Cures For Headaches

Many people get headaches as a response to physical strain, cramped muscles, and pinches nerves. These muscular headaches can be brutal, and are usually reoccurring to a very persistent degree. Usually, there is some level of tightness in or soreness in the area the muscle strain is occurring, like your neck or back area.

Because your nerves in that region are all connected and ultimately lead to your head, strain in your neck, shoulders, or back can produce headaches. Usually these kinds of headaches start out very localized, but can often spread over your entire head. Cures for headaches of this kind are difficult, as you have to cease doing whatever it is that is causing the strain, and may need extensive physical therapy to help your muscles recover.

Then there are sinus headaches. These are especially nasty, but fortunately are rarely a constant reoccurring phenomenon. Sinus headaches result from pressure in your sinuses, as a result from allergies, colds, or a sinus infection. If you get sinus headaches a lot, you may be suffering from allergies. Cures for headaches of this type can range from allergy treatments, to decongestants. My favorite is Claritin.

Unfortunately, headaches are one of the most complicated and poorly understood phenomenons in the medical world. Have you ever tried asking your doctor about cures for headaches? If you ask ten different doctors about headaches, you’ll get ten different answers.

The reason why doctors give you so many different answers is because headaches can have so many causes, and a lot of them aren’t really clear. If you get a lot of headaches, the first step you should do is try and figure out what kind of headaches you’re getting. From my understanding, there are a few different kinds.

Last but certainly not least, are migraines; everyone’s favorite and the least understood of the headache family. There are so many potential causes for migraines its not funny. If you suffer from migraines often, like me, it’s a good start to keep a kind of headache log.

Record hours you slept, how well you slept, what you ate and drank, what you did during the day, anything you can think of and see if you can detect patterns with your headaches. If you can’t get your finger on it there’s always painkillers. While they’re certainly not cures for headaches, they are better than nothing.

If you suffer from frequent headaches like me, finding some effective cures for headaches has probably been a personal goal of yours. I know for me it has been like the search for the Holy Grail. I would gladly sell my soul for some kind of magic pill of treatment that would serve as a once and for all cure for headaches.

Headaches and Botox Injections

Most people are unaware that the use of Botox for the prevention of migraine headaches came about purely by accident. It all happened through the use of Botox by plastic surgeons. Patients undergoing plastic surgery, who were also experiencing headaches, noticed that their injections of Botox helped with their migraine headaches.

Botox, also known as botulinum toxin, is a neurotoxin (a toxin that attacks nerve cells). It was originally approved by the FDA for use in conditions where hyperactivity of muscles was an underlying problem of related health and medical conditions. The theory is that Botox weakens or paralyzes muscles by inhibiting the release of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an ester of choline that is thought to play an important role in the transmission of nerve impulses at synapses and myoneural (muscle-nerve) junctions. By inhibiting the release of acetylcholine the nerves cannot cause a muscle contraction, thus relaxing the muscle. Botox is administered by being directly injected into the affected muscles.

There are differing theories as to how Botox works to eliminate migraine headaches, but the exact reasoning remains unclear. One theory is that muscle tension and spasms are a cause of migraines and by eliminating the muscle tension with an injection of Botox it will also eliminate the cause of the headaches. If given Botox before the headache begins it is possible to eliminate the headache before it even starts.

When muscles spasm it can irritate nerves that innervate them. When these nerves send signals to the brain in an increased amount it causes pain and possibly headaches. Botox may affect these nerve cells, inhibiting their transmission, causing a lessening of the perception of pain. Many researches think that migraine headaches are a result of inflammation of blood vessels. However, muscle tension may also play an important role in the cause of headaches.

When researchers test a medication’s effectiveness they usually test it through a double-blind study. This means that some patients are given the medication being tested while others are given a placebo. A placebo is an inactive substance, such as sugar, that is given in place of the medication that is being evaluated. Some tests have been performed that did not involve double-blind studies, but showed that Botox could prevent migraine headaches. One double-blind study involving Botox and headaches showed only a small positive effect.

Initial studies may not have shown the full effectiveness of Botox for the prevention of headaches. The injections were not placed in the typical locations of the headache pain, but in areas normally injected during plastic surgery. In subsequent studies, using larger doses and injecting into more specific localities for the headache pain, the results were improved. These tests were concerning migraine headaches. However, with tension headaches, or muscle tension headaches, the studies have shown improved results. This is to be expected due to the weakening or paralyzing nature of Botox on the muscles that are experiencing tension.

When being injected with Botox for the prevention of headaches it may take several weeks before the injection takes effect. For this reason it is usually necessary to have it injected no more often than once every 3 months or so. People that have Botox administered for the treatment of headaches typically need it injected every few months. If there is too long of an interval between injections the headaches may be experienced by the patient.

However, the question arises about the safety of these regular injections of a neurotoxin. Since 1989, when it was first used as a headache treatment, it has appeared to be fairly safe. Most migraine headache medications are taken orally and eventually end up in the blood stream. Because of this common symptoms of migraine headache medication will be dizziness and drowsiness among other symptoms. Since Botox is injected directly into the muscle tissue and does not get absorbed into the blood system as does the typical headache medicine there are fewer side effects. Most commonly, the only side effects of injecting this neurotoxin is pain in the area of injection for a couple of days or drooping of the eyelids for a few days.

Studies are still being performed on this medication and as yet the FDA has not approved it for the treatment of headaches. However, physicians do prescribe it to their patients and if you think you are a candidate to use it you should discuss it with your doctor. If you do not respond to other headache medications it may be something to talk with your physician about. As the studies continue the effects and safety issues involving this medication should become more clear.

Medication Overuse Headaches: The Vicious Cycle of Analgesic Rebound

Victims of frequent headaches often take painkillers frequently. And when their headaches occur even more often, they respond by taking painkillers more often, too. After a while, they might notice (though often don’t) that they’re taking painkillers almost every day. In short, they’re taking medicine more and more frequently and yet experiencing more and more days of headaches.

Although the typical victim of this scenario assumes that the headaches are occurring more frequently in spite of taking painkillers more frequently, the truth of the matter is that the increased headaches are probably occurring because of the increased use of painkillers. The headache victim has inadvertently entered a self-inflicted, vicious cycle in which the medications she takes are making her headaches worse and less treatable. This condition is known as “medication overuse headaches” (MOHs). Another name is “analgesic-rebound headaches.” An analgesic is a painkiller and “rebound” means just what it sounds like — a bounce-back. But in this case it’s not a basketball that’s bouncing. Instead, it’s pain in the head that’s bouncing back from the temporary relief afforded by the last dose of painkilling medication.

The MOH phenomenon occurs not only with prescription-strength painkillers, but also with over-the-counter analgesics like aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. And when caffeine is used as part of an analgesic combination, it can be a culprit, too. The MOH phenomenon cannot be avoided by periodically replacing one painkiller with another. As far as the MOH-generating system is concerned, one painkiller is about the same as another.

MOHs are not rare. In a recent survey of 64,560 people, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim found that 1.3% of women and 0.7% of men had this condition. The prevalence increased steadily from 20 years of age until about 50 years and then steadily declined.

In my community-based practice of general neurology, I find that patients have rarely heard of MOHs. They’re just not being discussed on TV talk shows or in magazines. So how can a victim of frequent headaches defend herself from something she never heard of? It’s tough. And another unfortunate fact is that MOHs are a mess to get out of. It’s better not to even go there in the first place. It’s easier to prevent a MOH syndrome than to get out of it once it is present.

Like other people with pain that is never-ending or occurs in frequent attacks, victims of frequent headaches live from moment to moment with their pain. It’s easy to see how they get into a pattern of taking lots of painkillers. To them, yesterday and tomorrow are irrelevant. All they know is that they hurt right now and they want to do something about it. So they reach for their bottle of over-the-counter or prescription-strength painkiller and deal with that moment’s pain. And the painkiller does afford temporary benefit (otherwise, they wouldn’t keep taking it). But after another 4-24 hours, when the pain is bouncing back, they’re in the same pickle they were in previously, and reach for yet another round of painkillers.

One might think that people with frequent, distressing and disabling pain could recount with great precision the frequency, duration and intensity of their attacks, or provide reliable estimates of how often they have severe, moderate or just mild pain. But, when I interview people who have this problem, I usually find just the opposite. What they want to tell me about is the pain they have right now even though I’m seeing them for the first time for a problem they have had for months or even years. They seem genuinely puzzled (or even angry) when I ask picayune questions like, “How many days per typical month does your head hurt?” or, “How many days per month do you go all day, 100% pain-free?”

Moreover, when patients try to come up with numbers to characterize their burden of symptoms, they are naturally drawn to their “headaches from hell” — the worst of the worst — and discount their non-severe “regular headaches” which they don’t consider to be much of a problem, even though they take pills for them and they occur almost every day. In brief, it seems difficult for patients with MOH syndrome to see the big picture or adopt a long-term perspective.

In any case, the basic idea in MOH syndrome is that frequent use of as-needed painkillers transforms the original headache disorder from whatever it started as — perhaps migraine, tension-type headaches or even a combination of the two — into a condition that is worse. The painkillers swamp the original headache disorder and make it into a new problem with different characteristics. Specific treatments directed toward the original headache disorder are ineffectual until the MOH phenomenon washes out.

And the MOHs don’t wash out until the headache victim stops taking the painkillers and does so on a sustained basis. It can take up to two months for MOHs to wash out. The definitive approach is to do without painkillers entirely. While one can prevent MOHs by not taking analgesics more than 10-12 days per month, once MOHs are present, decreasing the use of painkillers to just 10-12 days per month is probably not sufficient to make them go away. The cleanest approach is to avoid them entirely. And the goal of doing so is to get back to the original headache disorder. Once the analgesic-rebound headaches have subsided, then the original headache disorder can be treated with more targeted treatments (typically including preventive-type medication instead of relying on crisis-driven treatments as the mainstay) with improved prospects of meaningful improvement.

When I discuss MOHs with people who are unlucky enough to have them, they usually respond by nodding their heads. They’ve seen with their own eyes what I’m describing. They’re usually glad to learn there’s a name for what is affecting them and that studies have been done that provide guidance on what needs to be done to get them out of the pickle they’re in. I insist on mentioning that if what they were doing already was good enough, then they wouldn’t have needed to see me in the first place. Or alternatively, if what they were already doing was destined to be an effective strategy, then they should have seen the benefits by now. But because their headaches are worsening, in order to do better, a new strategy is called for.

The program we sketch out together has two necessary components — stopping the painkillers and tracking each day’s headache symptoms with a recording system. The recording system doesn’t need to be fancy, and can be as simple as rating each day’s pain as none, mild, moderate or severe. The important feature is that the patient records each day’s pain experience before the day is done. This tool helps both the patient and the doctor to see the big picture and gain a long-term perspective. Also, each month’s recordings can be converted to numbers and compared with any other month’s results.

Everything else is secondary. Sometimes it is useful to prescribe a “preventive” medicine like amitriptyline, but only if the patient understands that it is not a replacement for the more important change of doing without painkillers. When prescribed, the main purpose of a preventive is to reduce the numbers of migraine and tension-type headaches once the analgesic-rebound syndrome has washed out. The preventive medication is a nice embellishment, but if it distracts the patient from stopping their analgesics (e.g. “That new pill you gave me didn’t do any good”) then it it’s better to do without it until the analgesic-rebound effect has washed out.

Why Do You Get A Headache?

Once an employee tendered a leave application to his office manager, reading:

“Due to expected circumstances tomorrow, I am having an unbearable headache today. Kindly grant me two days leave, for today and tomorrow.”

What were those expected circumstances? His degree results would be declared tomorrow; he was certain about his failure- no doubts about it! So, the poor guy was having headache in advance!

The big dictionary gives a brief meaning to the word headache: a headache is a pain that you feel in your head. When the good old dictionaries were drafted, who thought that the kingdom of headache was readying for an awesome growth? This small head has given rise to many types of headaches! Migraine headache, sinus headache, cluster headache, orgasm headache, allergy headache and the good old chronic headache!

Headache is that something which causes you difficulty or worry. Even though suffering is intense and unbearable when you have a headache, you should not get unnecessarily perturbed over it. First of all you have to understand your headache. What is the root cause of your headache? It may be due to the wrong food you took in yesternight’s marriage party. Then you have to bear with it for a day or two. The headache will automatically come to an end. Don’t rush to strong pain-killers and antibiotics the moment you have the headache.

The ideal position would be self-management! Your past experience in dealing with such types of headache will give you some clues. The advice of the elderly, regarding traditional medicines, may at times work wonders! Some times, the pain may be unbearable, but it is worth bearing! After the impurities in the body are flushed out by natural process, for which exercise, your system may take a day or two, the headache will automatically disappear!

Don’t read too much into your occasional headaches, but if they persist or if their severity increases, do not hesitate to consult your family doctor.