First year acupuncture students often give themselves away by asking: “what’s a good point for relieving a headache?” After a couple of years of training, students know better: headaches can be as varied as the people that experience them, and no one treatment works for everyone.
While this may seem like common sense, all too often I see headaches with a myriad of causes treated in the exact same way, usually with medication. Standard western medicine generally categorizes headaches into tension, migraine, and (if you’re really unlucky) cluster headaches. These categories are not nuanced enough to provide relief for all, especially if you want to do it without medication.
I’ve suffered from headaches since I was a teenager and tried lots of different treatments over the years. For me and my patients, the most effective headache treatments have resulted from a thorough investigation into their causes.
Taking the time to get to know what is causing your headaches may seem daunting, especially when you are really suffering. However, investing a little time and effort in keeping a headache journalmay start you on the path to freeing yourself from the suffering.
Every time you get a headache, before it gets too bad (or shortly after it ends), write down when you got it, and any factors that may have contributed, especially changes in your daily routine (what you ate and drank, how much sleep you got, stress you were under, changes in physical activity you engaged in, where you are in your menstrual cycle, new medications or supplements).
Commit to doing this for two weeks (or longer if your headaches are less frequent), and you will probably see patterns For example, perhaps you will discover that you get a headache the day after drinking coffee, or shortly after strenuous exercise. Some people find that their headaches are triggered by hard cheeses, chocolate or alcohol.
Knowledge is power, and this may be enough to bring you relief from your headaches. If not, and you’re still suffering, bring your headache journal to me or another naturopathic doctor. We can help dig deeper into the roots of the pain and discomfort so you can get lasting relief.
An Important Note:Headaches may occasionally indicate a serious medical condition, particularly if they start suddenly, are more severe than ones you have previously experienced, or do not go away. Please discuss headaches with your doctor right away if you have these symptoms or you have any other concerns about them.