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Tension and Migraine Headaches

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Dear Natural Choice Journal

I suffer from tension and migraine headaches. What are my options, besides taking aspirin or Tylenol?

Sandi Duffield, Charlottetown

Response from Chiropractic Doctor, Dr. Melissa Wicks MacRae, Charlottetown, PEI

Most of us will suffer from a headache at one time or another. Unfortunately for some, headaches are a regular occurrence. It has been found that 80% of headache sufferers find relief with chiropractic treatments! In fact, your chiropractor may well bring relief from your headaches, whatever the cause: migraine, tension or cluster headaches.

A headache is your body's way of letting you know that something is out of kilter. Many headaches are caused by a stiff or painful neck. This pain and stiffness can originate from improperly moving spinal joints, tight muscles and irritated nerves. Your chiropractor uses gentle adjustments and soft tissue techniques to treat the involved areas and help relieve your headache. Adjustments performed by a qualified chiropractor are a safe and natural choice. The chiropractor uses his/her hands or a small "adjusting tool" to move the spinal bones to restore proper spinal functioning of the joints, muscles and nerves. It is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. You may also be instructed in certain stretches, exercises or postural changes to help reduce the strain on the muscles and joints of your neck. Each year many Canadians seek the gentle care of their chiropractor to help them find relief from their headaches.

Dr. Melissa Wicks MacRae 892-BACK (2225)

Response from Massage Therapists, Michele Moore, RMT and Laura Dear, RMT, Charlottetown, PEI

Tension and migraine headaches have different sources, but for the sufferer, the result is the same - the experience of pain. The pain in a tension headache is related to excessive tightness in the muscles of the head and neck, while migraine pain is due to changes in the pressure of blood vessels in the head. The massage therapist has a unique treatment for each type of headache.

The pain of the tension headache can be alleviated by hands-on manipulation of the muscles. Most often, tension headaches can be attributed to the presence of trigger points - highly sensitive spots in tights muscles.. When the massage therapist releases the trigger point, the entire muscle relaxes, and the headache disappears.

Treatment of migraines by the massage therapist focuses on the improvement of full body circulation. Increasing circulation to the body core serves to decrease blood flow to the head, relieving the headache pain. Typically, migraine sufferers show symptoms of tension headaches brought on by the body's response to pain. As a result, patients with migraines are often treated for tension headaches as well.

Warm or cool hydrotherapy applications or use of essential oils are among the other modalities used. Management of symptoms may also include stretching and breathing exercises. Frequency and duration of treatments is determined by individual needs to achieve optimal muscle heath and flexibility.

Michele Moore, RMT and Laura Dear, RMT (892-9255)

Response from Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Matt Target, Summerside, PEI

The tension headache is the most common form of headache and the most commonly diagnosed condition in North America. The cause is usually attributed to muscle tension resulting in referred pain from the muscles of the neck, skull, and suboccipital region. The tension can result from injuries such as whiplash, postural strain or most commonly stress. As a result of this tension, the muscles remain in contraction and compress nerves causing pain. The other primary factor contributing to the pain is nerve irritation caused by the buildup of metabolic wastes due to decreased circulation, hormonal imbalances and even digestive disturbances. The most common way most of us deal with this condition is by using aspirin and other pain killers, which actually put an extra burden on our body's detoxification processes and can cause digestive problems.

Therefore, in treating this condition, our first steps are to reduce and release tension. To do this, we need to identify the stressors in our lives and reduce exposure to them. However, this is not always practical so some great ways to help deal with our stessors are relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, and affirmations. Massage also provides an excellent way to physically reduce the tension and increase the circulation in affected muscles. Acupuncture serves a similar purpose through the needling of affected muscles and their trigger points. Lastly, many excellent herbs are effective in reducing stress and tension, both physically and mentally. Some of these include passion flower, chamomile, skullcap, and valerian. To help our bodies clear metabolic wastes, we must eliminate irritating foods. These can include chocolate, fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy products to name a few. Several vitamins such as B vitiamins, vitamin C. vitamin E, magnesium and calcium are also helpful in decreasing tension and help with elimination of wastes.

Dr. Matt Target B.Sc.,N.D. is Naturopathic Doctor in Summerside
(902) 436-2674.


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