Headache or Migraine?

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headacheDo you have a headache or migraine? What’s the difference? A migraine is a severe, painful headache that can last anywhere from several hours to several days. Migraines differ from traditional headaches in that they are usually accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or flashes of light.

Migraines can affect adults and children, but are most often reported by adults. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men.

To better understand headaches and to differentiate migraine headaches from other types, check the list of common signs, symptoms and frequencies of headaches below. Our certified wellness counselors recommend keeping a headache diary—noting when your headaches occur, what your headache signs and symptoms are, and any diet or lifestyle triggers you can identify. These details can help a professional assess your situation and make recommendations for natural relief of your headache or migraine. 

Are the headaches dull and achy?

Tension-type headaches, the most common variety of headaches:

  • Often feel like a tight band around your head
  • Cause mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head
  • May be triggered by stress, neck strain, missed meals, depression, anxiety or lack of sleep
  • May occur occasionally or more than 15 days a month (chronic)
  • Can last from 30 minutes to an entire week.

Are the headaches throbbing, sharp, and severe?

Migraines:

  • Often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • May affect only one side of your head
  • May include head pain that worsens with routine activity
  • May be triggered by stress, weather changes, environmental factors (like strong perfumes and other smells), certain foods and menstrual cycles or fluctuating estrogen levels
  • Untreated, typically can last from 4 to 72 hours.

Common Headache & Migraine Triggers

  • Low serotonin levels
  • Food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Alcohol
  • Chemicals (MSG, nitrates)
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Stress/emotional changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Muscle tension
  • Weather changes
  • Eye strain

Managing Headaches & Migraines with Natural Supplements

Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that you can take to help relieve your headache symptoms. Studies have shown that magnesium relaxes muscle tension and manages tension headaches better than over-the-counter pain relievers. Migraine sufferers also tend to be magnesium deficient; in fact, some studies show that more than 50% of patients during an acute migraine have lowered levels of magnesium.

Melatonin: Migraine sufferers may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of their headaches by taking melatonin, shows a promising study. Researchers gave 34 migraine sufferers (29 women and 5 men) a 3-mg dose of melatonin, 30 minutes before bedtime, for 3 months. Of the 32 patients who finished the study, more than two-thirds experienced at least a 50% reduction in number of headaches per month. Additionally, the intensity and duration of headaches decreased. The scientists believe that melatonin’s anti-inflammatory and free-radical-scavenging effects contribute to its headache-relieving benefits.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): Research suggests that 5-HTP may be particularly effective in reducing both the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin, and low serotonin levels have been associated with migraines.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 is an important antioxidant that may help prevent migraines. Studies, including a double-blind, randomized trial showed that more than 60% of patients who took 150 milligrams of CoQ10 daily experienced a 50% or better reduction in the number of days with migraines.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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June 2014
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