Put Your Headache Puzzle Pieces Together

Are you happy relying on your migraine medication to get through your headache misery? Do you mind taking an Ibuprofen or Tylenol when your occasional tension headache pops up? If you want other more natural alternatives, read on.

You may not like the side effects of your current headache medications but see no alternative to keep your rampaging headache away. In addition, you may be concerned about the long-term effects of your medication intake.

Consider the following ideas for conservative management that can help you manage your headache and give you some control back. Imprint the following checklist so that you can mitigate your migraines

Find your headache muscles.

Identify which muscles are the most tender during your headache episodes. Your headache muscles may be tender even when you do not have a headache and you can find them easily. However, your headache muscles may light up only when your headache is in full swing. You touch these muscles, and their tenderness will jump right out at you.

You may or may not be able to reduce your headache by massaging these muscles during a headache flare up. Instead, once you know which muscles are your troublemakers, make sure to tend to them frequently after your headache has subsided. You may prevent your next headache from becoming as severe.

Investigate your sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, temporalis, and occipitals as your first layer of muscles to check out. Your levator scapulae and several other neck muscles may also be culprits. Read about these specific muscles in previous blogs or in my book.

Make Sure Your Neck Turning Stays Normal.

Too often someone relieves their headache nicely and all seems fine. However, they return on a subsequent visit reporting that their headaches have been increasing again. When I do a check of their neck turning ability, I almost universally find that they are not turning as far as they were on their last visit. Their neck muscles are tight again.

Subsequently, I found that a “check-up from the neck-up” done five times a day helps keep the headache at bay. People turn their neck to the left and hold five seconds, then to the right and hold five seconds. This frequent reminder reminds the neck muscles to not tighten and trigger a headache.

Acupuncture Points

Your answer for headache relief may lie at your fingertips! I have over 30 years of experience identifying those acupoints that most consistently relieve headaches. You most likely are not used to thinking of how you can use points scattered throughout your body as first aid for your headaches. Yet they work!

You may be able to figure out which points are your “go-to” points. Look for acupoints that are embedded in the muscles that you also have identified as a headache troublemaker.

Some of the points have a clear pattern. If a client has pain in the frontal part of the head and eye, I will apply pressure to the LI-4 point between the thumb and forefinger which relieves that precise area.

Other points are more random. A point behind the head may relieve a frontal headache on one person. On another person that point is useless, whereas a point in the upper sternocleidomastoid muscle at the side of the neck works splendidly.

Jaw Joint and Dental Troubles

Many of my clients find their headaches and their temporomandibular joint go together. The headache may be caused by their dysfunctional jaw joint. Their jaw troubles may aggravate an existing headache problem.

Splints or mouthguards may help you to combat a clenching problem that may cause you to grind down upon your temporomandibular joint. A clenching problem may show that you have an issue with the next area we will look at.

Manage Your Stress.

Internal, emotional stress is a primary trigger for both migraine and tension headaches. Decrease your stress and your headaches will likely subside as well. Use techniques described in earlier articles for diaphragmatic breathing and other stress reduction techniques.

Cognitive behavior therapy may help to decrease your stress response from what you have going on around you. Professional therapists, health psychologists and counselors can help you go beyond your current coping capability with stressful situation.

Sensory Overstimulation

We take in a wonderful world with our five senses that we largely take for granted. We may also, however, take in a terrible headache as well.

Bright lights, sharp noises, scents such as perfumes may trigger reactions within us that lead to a migraine. You most likely know by now which sensory triggers, if any, belong to you.

Food and Drink

You are what you eat. Have you ever heard that before? That axiom applies to headaches as well. The “hot dog headache” afflicts some people. Hot dogs, sausage, pepperoni with their nitrates flare up headaches.

Remember, you will have a delayed reaction of about 4-18 hours from when what you eat will show itself as a headache.

Soda may be your nemesis. The dark sodas are particularly troublesome, as your system may react to aspartame or sucralose.

Alcohol may be part of your mix of headache triggers. Your sensitivity to alcohol may be such that some types trigger ferocious headaches whereas other varieties leave you in peace.

So much for the “unhealthy” triggers. How about the “healthy” triggers? Salads and salad dressing with their multiple preservatives may trip your trigger. Sugary fruit juices and overripe fruit may destabilize you blood sugar balance. Many migraine brains do not appreciate blood sugar fluctuations.

Caffeine may alternatively help you or hurt your headache profile. You may do just fine with a cup of coffee. Just do not follow it up with a third or fourth cup!

Medication Side Effects

We take in more than just food and drink. Our medications and supplements are also ingested and may do an exemplary job in correcting the health problem they were meant to address. However, in doing so, they may set off a cascade of chemical reactions under the surface that emerge as headaches.

This article is not meant to point out the known side effects of various medications. That chore is for your physician and pharmacist to help sort out. You simply need to be aware that your medications may have a real effect on your headaches.

Take Charge of Your Headache

Do any of these factors mentioned above resonate with you? It is my hope that you can explore further avenues to manage your headaches.

Use previous articles within these blogs, or my book Calming the Headache Storm, or seek out a practitioner who can help you sort out these issues to give you a better path forward.


-You understand that if not done properly, some techniques and exercises described in this blog could harm you. Any activities you perform are at your own risk, and you expressly agree to waive any claims against the author for any harm that may arise from your own actions. By reading this blog and conducting these exercises, you accept this risk. This blog provides content related to physical and/or mental health issues. As such, your use of techniques described acts as your acceptance of this disclaimer.

-Consult Chapter 2 in my book, “Calming the Headache Storm” to make sure the headache is not the sign of a more serious problem. The techniques, advice and strategies contained in this blog may not be suitable for every individual and should be abandoned if your headache increases. Seek the advice of your physician.





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