What causes headaches? The most common cause of regular headaches is muscle tension caused by spinal misalignment. A simple chiropractic evaluation and adjustment is often all it takes to relieve recurrent headaches.

Paradoxical as it may seem, a surprising percentage of headaches may be caused by headache medication. The "rebound effect" of analgesic and ergotomine compounds has been implicated as a contributing factor for sufferers of daily headaches. Discuss this phenomenon with your prescribing doctor if you are taking more than 30 analgesic tablets a month or if you regularly use ergotamine derivatives. Withdrawal from these products can temporarily make headaches worse, but eliminating these products altogether may ultimately mean far fewer headaches.

How can what you eat give you headaches? When exploring the causes of headaches, the easiest place to start is diet. Food reactions are a significant contributor to headaches and some improvement, if not complete remission, can usually be achieved by eliminating problematic dietary items. The elimination/challenge trial is a good way to identify food reactions that may be causing headaches.

Physical Medicine to Treat Headaches

Submerge the feet in a bucket of very hot water while at the same time applying an ice compress to the back of the neck. This actually draws the blood down to the feet away from the head. Reduction of pain coincides with the duration of application.

Acupressure type massage can be helpful. See a trained acupressure therapist for instructions on procedures to do at home.

Chiropractic adjustments and maintaining correct spinal alignment can be very supportive in the prevention of headaches that are triggered by muscle stress and spasm.

Acupuncture to Treat Headaches

Acupuncture is a very useful treatment for headaches. It can balance underlying hormonal deficiencies, tonify the gastrointestinal system, and calm reactive blood vessels. It can support the balancing required in any healing process.

A word of caution: when selecting an acupuncturist, be very careful to research the training and qualifications of your practitioner. Medical doctors can take weekend courses in acupuncture and call themselves certified acupuncturists. A weekend course is NOT enough study to understand the complex philosophy or practice of Chinese Medicine.

Choose a practitioner who holds a full doctorate degree in Chinese medicine: an O.M.D. (Oriental Medicine Doctor) or Lic.Ac (licensed acupuncturist). These practitioners are required to complete several years of training. The letters TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) after the name means that the doctor has additional training in the prescribing of Chinese herbs. The more knowledge a practitioner has about Chinese Medicine, the better they will be able to diagnose and treat your symptoms. Also, as with all health care practitioners, check the practice reputation in the community.

How can your environment contribute to headaches? Headaches can be agonizing and debilitating. The inclination to "make the pain go away now," however, can be an obstacle to curing the cause of the pain. It is easy to become trapped in a cycle medication and side effects. Headaches do not just happen; they are not a random occurrence. They are your body interacting with the environment. Explore the environment as well as the your body's relationship to it to determine the factors that are upsetting your internal balance and you can control your headaches and know how to prevent them from re-occurring.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2002

Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014