Pain in the Head

Headaches can be a nuisance to down right debilitating. Those of you who suffer from headaches I can imagine can attest to the wish to be rid of these burdens.

Patients seek help from naturopathic doctors for a variety of reasons — they want off their current medication, their medication is no longer that magic bullet or they haven’t found a medication that works for their particular headache.

Look For The Trigger

A headache can be triggered by different things. Common ones I have come across in my practice include stress, hormones and food. 

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It’s common to develop a headache when life mounts its stress on you. Knowing what your stressors are is often the first step to keeping them in check. Take some time to know yourself and bring in what you love to do to fill your cup.  

On a hormonal front, a common time to experience a headache is with PMS, just prior to the period. I have found that balancing hormones with herbal medicine smooths out a woman’s month. Some of my favourite herbs include Chastetree & Ashwaganda for the purpose of bringing balance to female hormones and cortisol, respectively.

 

 

The thing with food is that your body may not produce a headache up to 72 hours after eating the offending food. Unmasking food sensitivities can be difficult. A go to test in my practice is an IgG food panel that covers 95 different foods and looks at the degree of reactivity that your immune system has to each one.

A common lab I use for checking food sensitivities is linked here:

Meridian Valley Lab

Up the Deficiencies

There are a couple of vitamins and minerals that particularly come to mind when a patient gets frequent headaches. These are B6 and Magnesium. 

B6 is thought to enhance neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are considered to be involved in migraine occurrence. Supplementing with B6 can specifically be helpful if you experience migraines with aura to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. 

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Magnesium is a mineral that helps to relax muscles and blood vessels. I find all too often just adding this ubiquitous mineral can reduce the severity and frequency of headaches and migraines. 

If you are seeking immediate relief from a migraine or headache, a Myer’s cocktail can be a great solution. This is an IV treatment that contains both B vitamins and Magnesium plus some Vitamin C and Calcium. The IV increases the absorption and bioavailability of these vitamins by bypassing the digestive system 

Rule Out Structural

When it comes to structural headaches, I definitely like to refer to trusted colleagues, chiropractors, massage therapists and craniosacral therapists. Headaches can stem from structural imbalances in the cervical/neck area. The trapezius muscle, when tight, can create a referral pattern of pain that travels up the back of the neck to the temporal area of the skull.  

 

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Provide A Nerve Block

 

I have used a simple procedure to block the occipital nerves with a local anesthetic that innervate much of the scalp. This procedure is quick and can be performed in the office. The anaesthetic is injected just underneath the skin at the source of the two occipital nerves shown on the right. One or two treatments are often all that is necessary.

 

Whatever the source of your headaches, my aim is to get to the bottom of it and bring you relief.

References:

Catassi C. Gluten Sensitivity. Ann Nutr Metab 2015;67 Suppl 2:16-26. 

Szperka et al. Patterns of Use of Peripheral Nerve Blocks and Trigger Point Injections for Paediatric Headache: Results of a Survey of the American Headache Society Paediatric and Adolescent Section. Headache. 2016 Nov;56(10):1597-1607.