Understanding Headaches and Migraines: 

Did you Know that migraines affect almost one in five women, that’s over 8 million Britons are sufferers? This is a significant statistic and that is just the women.
But not all headaches are migraines and not all headaches hurt in the same way.
As a Reflexologist I have to understand where the headache is coming from, so I can work on the correct points on the feet and help to release the tension, toxins and the pain. But also, it helps if you yourself knows what sort of headaches you are dealing with so you can help prevent another painful experience.

Sinus headaches typically cause pain in the cheek, eyebrow and forehead. Sinus headaches, caused by a sinus infection, often include symptoms such as thick discoloured nasal discharge, decreased sense of smell, pain over your upper teeth, sinus pressure and sometime a fever. Sinus headaches get worse in damp, cold weather.




Tension headaches tend to target the back of the neck, as well as causing shoulder tenderness. They can also be triggered by stress and food allergies.





Cluster headaches are severe headaches on one side of the head, typically around one eye. I find clients will often mistake these for migraines. There is often accompanying eye watering, nasal congestion, or swelling around the eye on the affected side. The inflammation surrounding tissue irritates the trigeminal nerve that cause the cluster headaches.





Migraines are preceded by an aura, as well as light and noise sensitivity, nausea and vision loss. They often lead to a throbbing sensation, usually (although not in all cases) on one side. Migraines originates deep in the brain, spreading electrical impulses, changing nerve cell activity and blood flow resulting in visual disturbance, numbness or tingling and dizziness.




To understand what causes this response, we need to identify what is triggering your migraine or headaches.
Stress from Lifestyle and events. I know we hear it all the time, are you STRESSED? but stress and anxiety does cause tension in the muscles, it slows and shuts down the nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) to allow more energy for emergency functions. Chemicals are pumped to the brain to create high alert, but when this goes on for a long time the brain become foggy and is unable to function, causing headaches.
Digestive stress: Any stomach acid problems such as heartburn, reflux, bloating, nausea etc. Nitric oxide – a strong vasodilator important in triggering migraine – thrives in an acid environment. Acid food such as pickles and mature cheese are known migraine triggers. L-arginine converts to nitric oxide in the body and therefore high consumption of L-arginine rich foods such as chocolate, nuts, diary and animal products, seafood, wheat and oats, soybeans and chickpeas can be migraine triggers. There is other known trigger food such as citrus fruits, caffeine, alcohol, monosodium, glutamate, aspartame, bananas, marmite or gluten. Also skipping meals and not drinking enough fluid, dehydration, low blood sugar may be a trigger.
Hormonal Stress: Do your headaches happen at the same time of the month? Did they begin during puberty, were they different during pregnancy, are they changing around the time of menopause?
Mechanical stress: Do you have Musculo-Skeletal system injuries? An old whiplash injury can cause long term problems following displacement of the bones in the neck, skull, face and ear. Neck and back postural problems can occur from sitting at the computer. Dental bite alignment, teeth clenching and jaw misalignment may put pressure on the trigeminal nerve. Lower spinal injuries can cause compression resulting in an inflammatory response and Foot dysfunction can cause imbalance along the kinetic chain.
Lifestyle Tips:
Things to look out for:
• Do you have a supportive bed and pillow? A mattress that is too soft or too hard can be putting strain on your back, neck and shoulders. A pillow that is to high or flat will put pressure on the neck.
• Are you sitting at the computer correctly?
• How are your eyes? Are you straining your eyes? Get them tested
• How do you walk on your feet, do your feet roll in or out, is this knocking your hips, back and neck out?
• Are you eating a balance diet? Do you eat too much sugar? Drink too much caffeine or alcohol?
• Are you eating regularly? Skipping meals?
• Are you dehydrated? Are you drinking enough water?
• Does your body feel tight? Neck, shoulders, back, hips, legs and feet.
• Are you get enough sleep?
• Are you Stressed?

Tips to reduce the perception pain of headaches and migraines:
• Sleep – Focus on getting good quality sleep
• Food – Eat regular meals and snacks. Avoid too much sugar, processed food. Nutritional deficiency can also cause migraines. Eat clean and healthy meals, this will help with the low blood sugar and sugar spikes that trigger headaches and migraines. One of the most important nutrients in this respect is magnesium, I refer clients to a colleague who is a nutritionist, they will often recommend 200-250mg of magnesium once or twice a day.
• Drink – Drink plenty of water, herbal teas, don’t get dehydrated. Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine.
• Exercising – Do regular exercise to release the endorphins.
• Stretching – Regular stretching helps to release tightness and tension in the muscles, releasing the tension in the head.
• See a podiatrist that does Gait Analysis to see if you are walking correctly on you fee.
• See your dentist if you grind your teeth, this can cause TMJ.
• Have your eye tested
• Reduce Stress – Learn techniques to help reduce stress
• Relax – take time to do the things you enjoy, relax and breathe. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, it all helps
• Treatments – look after yourself, it’s not anyone else’s job. Book a treatment that will help treat the tension, stress, hormones and relax you. Reflexology can work on all these elements, but if this isn’t the treatment for you, Acupuncture, Massage, Osteopath, Chiropractor and many more can help.

Hayley Bennett

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