Headaches are the most common health complaint. Almost everyone will experience a headache at some point during his or her life.
A headache is a pain sensed by the nerves and muscles along the head and neck area, as well as the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This pain is usually characterized as continuous pain in various parts of the head. The brain itself cannot sense pain, so headaches actually have nothing to do with the brain hurting. There are three major types of headaches: tension, inflammation and vascular headaches.
TYPES AND CAUSES OF HEADACHES
Tension headaches are usually caused by the tensing and tightening of facial or neck muscles. This type of headache accounts for 90 percent of all headaches and affects people at any age, from children to adults. Pain from a tension headache usually feels like a tight band or vice squeezing the head. The pain is usually dull and covers most of the head. There are many causes of tension headaches, but the most common are physical stress, emotional stress, bad posture, eyestrain, head injury and caffeine.
Inflammation headaches are caused by sinus infections, allergies, meningitis, stroke or other medical conditions. It is also characterized by a dull pain all over head. This type of headache is also a common side effect of many prescribed medications.
Vascular headaches are caused by disturbances in blood flow to the brain. Blood vessels in the head can dilate or contract, causing increased or decreased blood flow to the brain. The two most common types of vascular headaches are migraines and cluster headaches.
Migraine sufferers typically have severe pain in one side of head and are accompanied by nausea, visual disturbances such as flashing lights, auras, blurriness and sometimes a fever. Many migraine sufferers are also sensitive to light. The most common triggers of migraines are perfume, alcohol, eye strain, food allergies, seasonal allergies, menstruation, weather, stress, depression, sugar and sugar alternatives, cigarette smoke and improper sleep.
Cluster headaches occur repeatedly over a period of days, weeks or even months. They usually occur on one side of the head and centered near the eyes. The cause of this type of headache is unknown but experts suspect it’s related to blood flow.
COMMON TREATMENTS FOR HEADACHES
The most common treatment for headaches is over-the-counter pain medications. People who suffer from migraine, cluster or chronic headaches will most likely be prescribed medication for better pain control.
NATURAL TREATMENTS AND PREVENTATIVES
Some natural headache treatments include changing your diet, acupuncture and massage therapy. Food allergies are a common trigger for headaches. There are many foods known to trigger headaches, such as gluten, refined sugar, artificial sugar, soy and dairy. Just changing your everyday diet can decrease the frequency and intensity of headaches.
Yoga postures and breathing techniques are also very useful tools that can be used to prevent and treat headaches. The posture sequence below encourages body alignment while releasing tension in the spine, shoulders, neck and upper back. This sequence should take roughly 30 to 45 minutes. Take the time to allow your body to relax in each posture before moving to the next.
YOGA SEQUENCE TO RELIEVE AND PREVENT HEADACHES
Cat and Cow
Standing Forward Bend
Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend
Seated Head to Knee (Left and Right)
Seated Forward Bend
Shoulder Stand (Legs Up Wall)
Spinal Twist – Laying Down
Your breath should be calm and slow during the entire sequence. If you find your breath speeding up in certain postures, stay in that posture until your breath slows again. Try to keep the three-part yogic breath in mind. Inhale to fill your belly, chest and throat then exhale throat, chest and belly.