I think everyone has experienced headaches to at least a small degree in their lives. I’ve suffered from migraines and headaches for a long time now – probably the last 15 years. Over this time, I’ve learned a lot about what causes them, what eases them if they do occur, and what helps to prevent them in the first place. I’d like to share my experiences with you here.
What causes them?
- Thinking too much (try and work out specifically which thoughts might be causing you pain)
- Thinking too much…
- Lack of sleep
- Hunger (interestingly, I get a ‘hunger headache’ on the right side of my head, but if I’ve got a headache for any other reason it’s on the left side!)
- Disturbances in patterns (sleeping, eating, etc)
What eases them, and what helps to prevent them in the first place? Prevention is obviously better than cure, but I’ve put these together so that you can try what works for you in each scenario.
- A good old bag of frozen peas! Put it where the pain is felt most intently (for me, normally the left side of my forehead) and/or where you feel the pain is coming from (for me, normally where the bottom of my skull meets the top and sides of my neck).
- A gentle massage (getting someone to do it for you is obviously much more preferable than doing it yourself!) wherever you feel it’s necessary. Other than the obvious places (head, temples, neck. shoulders etc), there’s also a great spot between the base of your index finger and thumb on the back of each hand. It’s a fleshy part, and, if you have a headache or generally a tight head/neck you’ll probably find it’s tight and painful in this area. Put some gentle circular pressure on this part of your hand and see if it helps.
- Grounding – getting outside into the fresh air helps with pretty much anything, and headaches in particular. It fills the head with fresh air and the space it needs.
- As we know, prevention is better than cure; try and learn to spot the signs of a headache coming as early as possible so that you can do what feels right to you to help yourself and take yourself in a different direction other than Headacheville.
- Meditation and deep breathing. I’ve found that my headaches are more likely and more frequent when I breathe in a shallow, rather than a deep, way. Try and breathe in really deeply so that you fill as much of your body (and in particular your head and neck) with each breath as you can. If you can spend some time alone, just ‘being’, I’m sure you’ll feel calmer. Start with 60 seconds a day if you have to – it’s all good!
- Check your posture. One light that has recently been shed on my headaches is the postural aspect. Try and make sure than your hips are level (so that your torso is in one long line) and your pelvis, heart and head are all in one vertical line.
- Mudras. A ‘mudra’ is just a posh name for a hand position – kind of like hand yoga! The way we hold our hands and fingers can have various effects on the mind and body. Here’s one that works to draw the energy down out of your head and shoulders, which obviously helps with headaches: Take the ring finger and bend it so that the end of it is pressing lightly into your palm.
- Speaking of yoga..! Any kind of yoga practice will help with your headaches, because one of the benefits is that it reduces muscle tension. Having said that, here are a few specific poses that you can try:
- Legs-up-the-wall pose (fairly self-explanatory I think! Lie on your back with your feet as comfortably straight as you can. It might help to have your hips supported by a pillow to allow more blood to enter your head where it’s needed.
- Open the chest with this one: Stand, as best you can, with your pelvis, heart and head aligned. Clasp your hands together and put them on the bottom of your back. Keeping them there, gently pull the shoulder blades together and pull your elbows back. From here, keeping your shoulders and elbows steady, extend your arms as far as is comfortable until you feel a nice stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders . Try and keep the head steady (don’t let the chin fall down) and hold for as long as you like – I normally do it for between 10 and 60 seconds.
- Child’s pose: Sit on your knees on a folded blanket. Separate your knees wider than your hips and let your feet touch. Bend down from the waist and reach the arms forward with the forehead on the floor (or a folded blanket if it’s more comfortable) and your chin dropped towards your chest so that you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Place your palms down on the floor, with your arms in a comfortable position.
- Learn to let go of your stresses. Find ways that release the stress. For me, it’s being in nature, exercise (particularly yoga), meditation, writing and deep breathing; find out what works for you.
- Massage: massage is such an important and, in my view, underused tool in combating stress and improving health. Try and work a massage into your life as a treat as often as you can! I’ve had deep tissue and Swedish massage in the past – which one I choose depends on how much tension I want to release and how much pain I want to be in!
- Essential oils: See my post on how I got into oils as a result of my migraines here: http://fittoflourish.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/7/. Oils that I have found to help include basil, roman chamomile and marjoram, but the two that have given me the most relief are peppermint and lavender – I put them on my neck and head, and/or inhale them.
- And finally… Carrots! No, I haven’t gone mad. They help! I don’t know if it’s because they help with eyesight (which is linked to headaches I’m sure), but eating carrots helps ease and prevent my headaches!
So there you have a few ideas as to what causes, and what can prevent, headaches in my experience. I hope it’s of some benefit to you! Thoughts/comments/questions are most welcome!