Nearly 30 million Americans live with migraines. These recurring headaches cause missed days of work and temporary debilitation.
It usually starts out with a visual disturbance like wavy lines or flashes of light. Sometimes, there are blind spots. You might also experience heightened sensitivity to light or noise. You might become nauseous. If you’re like so many people who suffer from regular migraines, you just want to crawl into a dark room and hide until it’s over.
Not everyone who lives with recurring headache pain suffers from standard migraines. Some people have cluster headaches, which are even more painful. Some experts consider cluster headaches a form of migraine. They are less common than your typical migraine, but they are even more debilitating. They affect men four times as often as women.
Usually a cluster headaches strikes without warning and leaves you in severe pain for up to three hours. The pain will then subside only to reoccur again and again over the next several weeks.
Usually people living with migraine or cluster headaches are forced to turn to drugs for relief. This isn’t an ideal solution. The drugs can cause side effects, and they aren’t always effective.
A better solution is to learn what triggers your headaches and then avoid those triggers. You can also learn to anticipate the onset of your headaches and take steps to stop them.
Natural Ways to Combat Migraine Headaches
The first step to combat migraine headaches is to learn your triggers. Common triggers for migraines include certain foods (dairy, chocolate, and caffeine are regular culprits), unusual sleep patterns, heightened stress, and alcohol (especially red wine). Cluster headaches have less clear triggers, but alcohol is a common one.
Triggers vary from person to person. The best way to learn your own triggers is to keep a headache diary. Keep track of what you eat, how many hours you sleep, stressful events, how much you exercise, and anything else that might be noteworthy. Also keep track of when your headaches start and how long they last.
Hopefully, you can identify patterns that will reveal what triggers your headaches. Then you can avoid those triggers and reduce the frequency of your headaches.
The next step is to employ relaxation techniques to help reduce the severity and duration of your headaches. Biofeedback is one method that can help train you to relax in ways that will effectively relieve your pain. Biofeedback uses specialized equipment to help you see the physical changes that take place in response to your actions. For example, certain breathing techniques may reduce the tension in specific muscles. The biofeedback equipment lets you see that connection.
You can then use the feedback to learn the proper relaxation methods to relieve your headaches. A review of studies found that biofeedback consistently produces a positive affect for migraine sufferers.[i]
There are fewer studies available regarding the effectiveness of biofeedback, but individual case studies do show promise. In one published case study, a man who lived with cluster headaches for decades reduced the frequency by 72% using biofeedback. He also cut the severity of pain nearly in half.[ii]
Finally, taking a regular herbal supplements like feverfew, willow bark, and passionflower can help relieve migraine headache frequency. One study also showed the migraine frequency fell by 50 percent when patients took Co10 every day.[iii]
Migraine and cluster headaches can be debilitating. They can also have far-reaching effects on your job and your social life. But you aren’t helpless. There are safe, natural ways to reduce the number of headaches that you suffer from and regain control over your life.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
[i] Nestoriuc Y and Martin A. “Efficacy of biofeedback for migraine: a meta-analysis,” Pain 2007; 128(1-2): 111-127.
[ii] Hoelscher TJ and Lichstein KL. “Blood volume pulse biofeedback treatment of chronic cluster headache,” Biofeedback Self Regul; 8(4): 53-41
[iii] Cephalalgia, 2002, 22, 137-141.
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