What most people think are migraine headaches are really tension headaches. "Real" migraine headaches are usually associated with nausea or vomiting and tend to be preceded by seeing flashes of light, zigzags, blind spots, or stars. Doctors call these preceding visual symptoms "auras," which are not nearly as much fun or as practical as what New Age people refer to as auras (and the nausea is no fun at all).
Migraines are often triggered by psychological stress, but distinct from tension headaches, migraines tend to begin after a stressed person is finally able to relax; then that "relaxing" weekend or vacation becomes relaxation hell. During a migraine headache, blood vessels initially become overly constricted and then abnormally widened. You usually experience this pain on one side of the head, which can make you feel lopsided. Timber!
Common Migraine Triggers
Other triggers of migraines are sleeping too long, bright lights, too much time between eating, and fluctuations in hormone levels (some women get migraines during menstruation or during ovulation). Certain foods, drinks, and drugs can also set off a migraine.
When a migraine is triggered, your head seems to explode. The pain can feel like there's an alien being inside the head that is trying to get out through the eyes or the forehead. It can feel as though there's someone knocking at the door, inside your head, and there is no one home to answer, so the knocking unceasingly continues. These are but some of the experiences felt inside the torture chamber of migraine sufferers' heads.
Some migraine headache sufferers experience symptoms that warn them of an impending headache. Most commonly, these warning symptoms are disturbances of vision, slurred speech, dizziness, "floating" visual images, and weakness or numbness on one side of the body. If you are having a headache or any of these warning symptoms (and if the symptoms do not stem from drinking alcohol), consider these strategies.
The late family therapist Virginia Satir once said, "If you have a stiff body, it's no wonder you're numb upstairs." So, loosen your body. Try to move every joint in your body, one joint at a time, through its full range of motion. If you have access to a pool, do it in water.
Around the head in a couple of minutes
While sitting up, relax the head and allow it to be as limp as possible, letting your chin touch or almost touch your upper chest. Rotate the head clockwise very slowly several times, and then counterclockwise the same number of times.
Exercise to exorcise your migraine
Exercise can be effective in preventing a migraine. When you feel a headache coming on, exercise it out of you. If it hurts to move too much, however, try gentle motion exercise such as yoga, tai chi, or slow swimming.
Headache few with feverfew
Research published in the British medical journal "The Lancet" has shown that the herb feverfew is very helpful for vascular headaches. Scientists have proven that feverfew stops the blood platelets from releasing an excessive amount of serotonin, which tends to lead to migraine headaches. The preparations used in these studies are usually 0.2% parthenolide content or 25 mg of the freeze-dried pulverized leaves taken twice daily. These doses may prevent a migraine, while higher doses may be necessary to treat an acute attack (0.6% of parthenolide daily or one to two grams of the ground herb).
Are foods giving you a headache?
Certain foods can trigger a vascular headache. No food will cause everybody's headache, but many migraine sufferers cannot deny that there are foods that do aggravate their problem. The most common offenders are: nuts, chocolate, coffee, sauerkraut, wheat, cheese and other dairy products, hot dogs, luncheon meats that contain nitrites, citrus, MSG, and alcohol (especially red wine). Sadly, many salad bars keep vegetables fresh looking by using sulfites, chemicals that can cause or exacerbate a headache.
As above, so below
The congestion you feel in your head may be connected, in part, to the congestion you feel in your gut.
So below, as above
Stand on your head or shoulders, or hang upside down. Remember to breathe regularly. This exercise stimulates circulation and helps to break up some head congestion. Do this for a minute, and then with practice, try to extend it. To avoid possible head or neck injury, you should learn the proper position from a yoga book or yogi teacher. Don't do it if you have back problems or if it makes your head hurt too much.
Hot bathing and cold water torture
Fill a bathtub with hot water, and add several teaspoons of Epsom salts. Soak in the tub for 10 to 20 minutes, and melt and relax in this comfort. Dry off, drain the water, get back in the tub, and turn on the cold shower, allowing the cold water to spray your feet, knees, legs, back, torso, and head for three minutes. Dry off, dress in warm bedclothes, and relax in bed. This strategy is not for everyone, because some people are hypersensitive to heat and/or cold when they have headaches. Those people who can stand to do this hot and cold bathing will reap the benefits of improved circulation and reduced head congestion and pain.
Learn to circulate
With the aid of biofeedback, you can learn to directly affect blood circulation in your body, including the head congestion associated with a migraine headache. Courses in biofeedback are often available at community colleges, hospitals, and health centers.
Magnesium relaxes the constriction of blood vessels and helps to lower blood pressure. Some studies have shown that 200 mg of magnesium helps relieve migraines. Consider taking magnesium, preferably magnesium asparate or citrate, two or three times a day with meals.
Although some people use headaches as an excuse for not having sex, a researcher at Southern Illinois University has found that sex may actually provide some relief for migraine sufferers. The researcher found that the more intense an orgasm, the more relief was obtained. There are, however, serious side effects to this strategy (seriously wonderful side effects!).
One ineffective idea
Two-thirds of all people who suffer from migraines come from a family of fellow sufferers. Because changing one's parents is not a one-minute strategy, it is best to consider the previous methods.
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(EDITOR'S NOTE: The remedies presented here have taken from the book: "The One Minute (or so) Healer" by Dan Ullman, MPH. While we present a few suggestions here, the book contains 500 simple ways to heal yourself naturally.)
About the Author
DANA ULLMAN M.P.H. has been certified in classical homeopathy by the leading organization in the U.S. for professional homeopaths. He is the founder of Homeopathic Educational Services which has co-published over 35 books on homeopathy with North Atlantic Books. Dana writes a regular column for the huffingtonpost.com website. His numerous books are available for purchase on Amazon by clicking here.