This article was written by Dr. Sarah Brise and recently published in Kamloops Momma Issue #17.
Headaches: Common Causes and Quick Fixes
We all know how hard a New Year’s Resolution is to keep if you’re not feeling 100%. Unfortunately, lifestyle changes, work routine, or daily activities are all common causes or chronic or recurring headaches. Before you head to the medicine cabinet for painkillers, check out these common causes and try one (or a few!) quick fixes.
1. Dehydration – Many of us get so busy during the day that we forget this simple but very important step: DRINK WATER! Make sure you’re drinking at least 8 glasses per day, at regular intervals throughout the day.
2. Low Blood Sugar – Going right along with dehydration, do you get so busy that you forget to eat, or maybe go too long between meals? Make sure not to go longer than four hours between healthy meals or snacks. And junk food doesn’t help – a snack high in sugar can cause your blood sugar to spike, which in turn causes a blood sugar crash later on with a nasty headache to go with it.
3. Caffeine Withdrawal – Ok, maybe you’re trying to cut back on caffeine in the new year- good job! Headaches are normal as your body adjusts to the lack of caffeine, and they should subside in a week or two if you stick it out. You can try cutting back the caffeine gradually or switching to weakly steeped green or black tea to wean yourself off slowly and decrease withdrawal symptoms.
4. Change in diet/food craving – The New Year is a great time to break bad eating habits, and a popular route is to kick-start new healthy habits with some sort of nutritional “cleanse” that may cut out things like sugar, wheat, dairy, and processed foods. Any major or sudden change in diet can cause symptoms like nausea, headache, diarrhea, and low energy. Just like with cutting out caffeine, these symptoms can last 1-2 weeks. You can lessen these symptoms by making small changes to your diet over time.
5. Eye strain – If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer or reading, eye strain can cause headaches. Make sure to take a break from reading/screen time at least once every hour, and see your optometrist if you feel like you have to squint or strain in order to see properly.
6. Muscle tension – Stress causes muscle tension, which causes headaches, which causes more stress…… it’s a vicious cycle! Most people don’t realize that a lot of the time the muscle tension isn’t just contributing to your headache, it IS your headache! It sounds strange, but when your neck or upper back muscles are tight and strained it often causes your brain to interpret those pain signals as coming from your head. It’s often referred to as referred pain or trigger points. Taking time to stretch tight and sore muscles can help, as can regular exercise. If you still feel like your muscles are tight and sore, you may get headache relief from muscle or joint treatments: you can see a chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, or other health care practitioner.
7. Jaw (TMJ) problems – Jaw problems go hand in hand with muscle tension. Jaw clenching, grinding, or problems with bite causes muscle strain around the jaw and neck, which again can refer pain to the head. You should discuss jaw problems with your dentist. Also, manual therapists (example: chiropractor, massage therapist, physio) can also work on jaw muscles both inside and outside the mouth to relieve muscle tension.
8. PMS/Hormonal – These are larger issues that you may want to investigate if other approaches have not been helping. You may need to consult with a Naturopathic or Medical Physician.
On a final note, if you suffer from chronic or recurring headaches, you may get relief from manual therapy. Manual therapy consists of hands-on treatment of joints and/or muscles and includes: chiropractors, massage therapists, and physiotherapists. It’s important to work with your health care practitioner(s) to figure out the cause(s) of your headaches in order to plan appropriate treatment.
Dr. Sarah Brise is a chiropractor, kinesiologist, and certified Active Release Techniques ® (A.R.T.) provider at Kamloops Active Health.
NOTE: This article is for general information purposes only, and is NOT intended to replace the examination and advice of a Registered Health Care Provider.