Headaches are a real killjoy: one we see all too often at Spinal Care Clinics in Brentwood. They can be all-consuming or localised: one-sided, frontal, at the back or above your sinuses. Sometimes they come on suddenly, hitting you like a hurricane and other times they feel more gradual, constant and dull. Although there is no single cause for headaches, certain habits act as triggers. Knowing which issue you’re dealing with is essential to headache treatment. We’re taking a look at some common triggers and offering some helpful tips to make headaches and painkillers a thing of the past.
You’re probably familiar with the mind-blowing headache you experience after a good get-together with friends, when the wine flows freely with conversation and laughter. Hangover headaches are a result of dehydration but you don’t need to guzzle down the Chardonnay to feel these effects. Drinking insufficient amounts of water is a common trigger.
Dehydration reduces blood volume and oxygen supply to your brain cells, so they literally shrivel. Incredibly, its seems that your brain can shrink to such an extend that it pulls away from your skull. No wonder it hurts!
In the UK it is recommended that we drink AT LEAST 1.2 litres of fluids per day. This doesn’t necessarily need to be water but coffee and alcohol don’t make the cut.
A great way to measure your fluid intake and make sure you’re keeping hydrated is to get your hands on a reusable bottle. Get into the habit of always having it with you and drink up because summer is on the way!
Straighten up that back
Most of us are guilty of this one. We spend more time than ever locked in front of a screen and our spine is paying the price. Headaches due to poor posture can easily be kept at bay with regular chiropractic care. Your chiropractor will perform gentle spinal adjustments to release any pressure on your nerves and improve your posture.
If you work at a desk, make sure your chair is appropriately adjusted so that your eyes are level with the screen. Set a timer on your phone for 15-30 minutes. When the clock goes off, do a quick posture check and rectify. Getting up and stretching every so often will also help.
Additives, preservatives and everything else artificial
There’s no sugarcoating it: stay away from processed food! It’s usually packed with excess salt, sugar, additives and chemicals to make it ‘tasty’ and even addictive. Watch out for the following additives as they have been recognised as potential headache and migraine triggers.
Nitrates, found mostly in processed meats such as hams and bacon, cause your blood vessels to swell.
Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSGs) appears on food labels as ‘all natural preservatives’ or ‘hydrolysed protein’.
Aspartame, sugar’s sweet cousin and often found in ‘zero sugar’ beverages, is actually up to 150 times sweeter than sugar!
As a general rule of thumb, with or without headaches, avoid processed food. If you think this could be triggering your headache, get into the habit of checking food labels.
Red wine lovers
Alcohol in general is one to avoid if you get frequent headaches, but it seems best to steer clear of red wine in particular. This is because it’s packed with tannins, naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems. You can recognise tannin-containing wines by the dry sensation they create in your mouth. For many of us tannins don’t pose a problem at all, in fact they are also powerful antioxidants.
You can test this one out easily with a cup of black tea, also highly rich in tannins. Brew a cuppa and let it steep for a good ten minutes. Drink the tea and see if it triggers a headache. If so, you could be susceptible to tannins and avoiding red wines will solve the problem.
Stress & lack of sleep
You’re late. You can’t find your keys, your head is pounding and in general, it seems like your plate is just a little too full. Headaches are easily brought on by stress caused by muscle tightness in your face, neck and scalp. The majority of headaches experienced by adults are known as tension headaches and result from stress. Think of it as a warning signal telling you to lighten the load and catch some ‘me time’. This doesn’t mean you need to put your life on hold and go on a wellness retreat, although that would probably help. It does however mean that you should take things slower, prioritise and accept that there are only 24 hours in the day, 8 of which you need for sleep.
You can’t avoid daily stress. But you can keep stress under control by fostering healthy habits.