How common are headaches and migraines?
The World Health Organisation states that at least half the world’s adult population is affected by a headache or migraine at least once per year. It’s a very common health concern and is often a side-effect or symptom of an underlying problem or condition.
While it’s easy to reach for some over the counter painkillers to quell the throbbing pain, prevention is always better than symptomatic relief. If you’re using pain medication at least twice a week, you could cause rebound headaches (also known as a Medication Overuse Headache), that recur once the medication has worn off.
So, instead of constantly medicating, take a closer look at your lifestyle to see if you can practise better self-care and make some healthy adjustments.
Is it a headache or a migraine?
What is a headache?
A headache is the chronic or episodic discomfort you feel beneath your forehead, behind your eyes or that arises from the back of your head or upper neck area. A typical headache can last 30 minutes to four hours and differs in intensity, with some people reporting a dull aching pain while others can experience an intense stabbing sensation.
Headaches can be caused by muscle tension due to poor posture, toxins (like alcohol), emotional stress or anxiety, poor sleep quality, depression, viral infections (like flu) or hormonal fluctuations.
Some common types of headaches include:
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Sinus headaches
What is a migraine?
A migraine is more debilitating than a headache. It’s recurring and usually presents on only one side of your head and is often preceded by a halo effect, which means the sufferer can see wavy lines or flashing spots prior to the migraine.
A migraine causes intense pain that can last several hours and includes symptoms like nausea, blurred vision or sensitivity to light, and vomiting. It can be triggered by certain food sensitivities, loud noises, flickering lights, stressful situations and fatigue.
Getting to the bottom of what’s troubling your head
Chronic, painful headaches or migraines can be symptomatic of an underlying medical condition like depression. If they persist, you should visit your doctor who may recommend prescriptive medication like anti-depressants, which will help alleviate the symptoms of your headaches and migraines.
However, headaches and migraines can also be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, bad habits or food sensitivities. It makes sense to identify the trigger and stop the pain before it ever starts; and get healthier in the process.
Change of lifestyle tips: get healthier
Some of the best ways to alleviate headaches and migraines include:
1.Eating your way to good health
Natural, healthy and wholesome foods are the best dietary choices to combat headaches and migraines. Drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water each day to avoid dehydration and take magnesium supplements to prevent the onset of headaches. Some of the best foods to include are:
- Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and flaxseeds
- Orange, yellow and green vegetables, like squash, carrots and spinach
- Food rich in vitamin B12, like broccoli
- Antioxidants, like leafy green vegetables and berries
Certain food sensitivities like allergies or intolerances can affect the frequency and severity of your headaches or migraines. It’s recommended to try the elimination diet, where you cut out certain foods to gauge whether this affects your symptoms. The most frequently reported dietary triggers include:
- Food containing MSG, found in flavouring and condiments
- Citrus fruit
- Processed meat
- Caffeine, like coffee
- Food containing aspartame, like artificial sweetener
- Aged cheese
- Fermented or pickled food
2. Exercise and relaxation
3. Lifestyle habits
Drink alcohol in moderation and stop smoking as these toxins can cause many health-related problems like cardiovascular disease as well as exacerbate the symptoms of headaches and migraines.
4. Self-care techniques
Stress, anxiety and depression can all contribute to headaches and migraines. Practise self-care methods by learning to take a break and destress. Balance work responsibilities with recreational activities. Take a look at our articles on Stress Management In The Workplace and How To Reduce Stress to get some ideas.
5. Sleep hygiene
Ensure you get enough sleep so your body is well rested. The average adult requires approximately nine hours of quality sleep each night. It may also help to invest in an orthopaedic neck support pillow to improve your sleep posture.
Natural remedies that can help alleviate headaches or migraines
If you are suffering from either a headache or a migraine and would like to try some natural remedies, we suggest the following:
1. Essential oils and herbal teas
Essential oils can be applied topically by adding a few drops to a bath or can be inhaled.
- Lavender oil for a calming effect that relieves stress
- Peppermint oil to relieve congested sinuses and increase the level of oxygen in the blood
- Basil oil, which acts as a muscle relaxant and can relieve pain
A cup of herbal tea can also provide some relief, particularly these teas that have medical properties:
- Ginger, this antioxidant reduces inflammation
- Feverfew, prevents the onset of migraines
- Chamomile, used to combat anxiety or insomnia
2. Massage therapy
Massage therapy, like a scalp massage where you apply light pressure to your temples, can reduce tension and improve circulation.
Persistent headaches or migraines should be brought to the attention of a medical professional. While this condition can be an unpleasant irritation for some people, it can become a debilitating condition for others. Topmed encourages you to make appropriate lifestyle changes when it comes to combating headaches or migraines. Get in touch today and sign up for cover for yourself and your family.
Help others stay informed by sharing this article: