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Oh, My Aching Head! Try These 8 Headache Relievers First

Oh, My Aching Head! Try These 8 Headache Relievers First

Into every life a few aches and pains fall.  According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 20 people in the developed world suffer with a daily tension headache. Before you reach for a bottle of pain killers, try these pain relievers first.

Understanding the Types of Primary Headaches

There is a lot of confusion over the types of primary headaches, those not caused by another issue, e.g. sinus headaches.  Many people claim to have a migraine, when what they really have is a tension headache.  The level of pain does not determine the diagnosis.

A tension headache is the most common type of headache and is characterized by pain that affects the whole head. Some sufferers experience the pain in the back of the head; others feel it across the forehead.  Some people report a sensation like a tight band around the head or muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.  Even though tension headache sufferers may  be sensitive to light and sound, tension headaches tend to grow in intensity, which gives sufferers time to counter. They are typically not incapacitating.

There is a misconception that “migraine” means severe headache.  While migraines can be painful, the name refers to a type of headache. Migraines result from specific physiologic changes in the brain that lead to pain. Those changes are fluctuations in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that send messages between brain cells.  Regular hormone fluctuations can be a trigger.  Then again, so can consumption of certain foods or a simple change in barometric pressure.  Migraine headaches are associated with symptoms such as: nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, blind spots, pain on one side of the head, numbness or weakness in the limbs. After puberty, migraines affect more women than men.

Cluster headaches tend to occur daily for periods of a week or more with long spans with no symptoms between episodes.  They are caused by a sudden release of histamines and serotonin in the brain.  Sufferers may experience symptoms like sharp pain behind one eye, one eye gets watery or inflamed, and/or the sufferer experiences a runny nose.  This type of headache affects more men than women.

Headache remedies to try before reaching for a pill

If you’re like many of our patients, you prefer to only use medication as a last resort.  Here are some remedies and treatments to try before reaching for that pain killer.  (Did you know that overusing pain killers can make subsequent pain feel more intense?)

1 – Drink 16-32 oz of  Water

Cigna Health reports that 75 percent of  Americans are chronically dehydrated.  Health Factors suggests that 80% of all headaches are caused by dehydration. The idea is that dehydration causes blood volume to drop, which results in less oxygen rich blood flow to the brain and dilation of blood vessels and triggers the sensation of pain.  So make sure you and your children drink enough pure water daily!  What’s enough? Try this formula: Body weight/2 = Minimum number of ounces to drink daily.

2 – Essential Oil

Urban Zen

A couple drops of peppermint oil could put your headache on the run.

Some headache sufferers experience relief by rubbing a bit of peppermint oil on their temples and on their necks.

3 – Cold Therapy

Apply a cold compress to the area for 15 minutes to slow blood flow and reduce inflammation. (Conversely, others find relief with warm compress therapy, but this is Dr. Duddey Sportscare, where we cheer for Elsa in Frozen, Frosty the Snowman, and the Snow Miser!)

4 – Peppermint Tea

If your headaches include a little nausea, go for a cup of peppermint tea.  Peppermint has been used for millennia to calm muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.  And herbal tea will also help rehydrate you.

5 – Acupuncture

Acupuncture effectively relieves chronic headaches.

Acupuncture effectively relieves chronic headaches.

While it may take a few treatments to dial it in, acupuncture can help chronic headache sufferers by reducing muscle tension and  encouraging the release of painkilling endorphins.

6 – Activity

If you’ve been sitting in the same position for hours, it’s time to get up and get the blood flowing! Stretch periodically throughout the day

7 – Chiropractic Care

Regularly scheduled chiropractic care has helped many people overcome chronic headaches.

Regularly scheduled chiropractic care has helped many people overcome chronic headaches.

Your chiropractor can use a variety of treatments to offer relief to the headache sufferer.  At a minimum, your chiropractor adjust your spine relieving any impinged nerves or rotated vertebrae.  Massage or physical therapy treatments may be added to address muscle tightness and spasms to offer relief.

8 – Coffee

Sipping a small cup of coffee can provide the right amount of caffeine  to block the neurotransmitter adenosine, which causes blood vessels to dilate and create pain-causing pressure. Caffeine constricts those vessels and relieves pain.  This method is effective for people who consume about 150 mg of caffeine (about a 12 ounce coffee) daily. If you are a coffee achiever, your blood vessels may not be as responsive.

 

 

 

Sources that helped inform this article:

  • medicinenet.com
  • webmd.com
  • New York Times, Really? The Claim: To Prevent Migraines, Drink More Water, 8/15/2011
  • RealSimple.com
  • CignaBehavioral.com
  • HealthFactors.com

 

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HOW WE KEEP BEACH VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS PERFORMING AT THEIR PEAK

Beach Volleyball, Huntington Beach, Chiropractic

Beach volleyball players benefit from chiropractic care, too.

After working the last three California Beach Volleyball Association (CBVA) tournaments of the summer, where I was able to treat some of the best volleyball players in the world, I have found some consistency in the nagging problems injuries that the players encounter.

The Shifting, Unpredictable Surface
The environment is a contributing factor to these challenges.  Sand is an unstable and unpredictable surface. It offers little to no traction, and it is constantly shifting. Unlike other sports, most players play barefoot, so they have no support that athletic shoes offer.

Three Nagging Problems Beach Volleyball Players Face

Many players experience plantar fasciitis, which is the straining or inflammation of the ligament that connects your heel bone (calcaneous) to your toes (metatarsals). This caused by the player’s bare feet constantly seeking traction and the high-intensity and fast pace of volleyball, this multiplies the strain on the plantar fascia.

A second, related issue is tightness, straining and cramping of the lower leg.  Bursts of speed, changing direction, and jumping put a tremendous load on the calf muscles.  Because the sand is constantly moving out from under the feet, the calf muscles are working overtime to perform.

The third challenge it to the shoulder, specifically the hitting shoulder. I see a lot of rotator cuff tendonitis that is attributed to volleyball specific movements. Hitters rarely are able to hit the ball with the exact same swing consistently. Unlike tennis players who can maneuver themselves so that each swing is almost identical, hitters in volleyball must adapt to the changing wind, position of the sets, and the defenders on the other side of the net. Additionally, blocking requires a sudden change in velocity of the hand, arm, and shoulder. When defending at the net, a hitter’s hand can go from 60 mph to zero mph in a blink. Lastly, consider that the player also makes last second adjustments to place a kill based upon where the players are positioned on the court.

Tips to Beat These Challenges

Treatment for each of these is easily handled with conservative means involving loosening the tissues, stretching the surrounding areas, rest, and of course, ice.

For plantar fasciitis, there are three treatments that will reduce inflammation and loosen the fascia. First, rolling the foot over a golf ball while seated is extremely effective at relieving tight fascia. I recommend doing this daily for 3-5 minutes. Follow this with the second maneuver, stretching the calf muscle. Sit with the legs out straight and pulling the toes back with either your hands or a rolled up towel. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat three times, and then do the same thing on the other leg.  Lastly, rolling the foot over a frozen 16-20 ounce water bottle for 5-7 minutes is the most effective way to ice the plantar fascia to reduce inflammation. Repeat this daily to make the painful plantar fasciitis a memory. To take unnecessary strain off of the area, I suggest wearing supportive shoes with good shock absorption and an arch support when not on the court.

To care for the calf muscles, a foam roll is your friend. Roll your calves over a foam roll either together or one at a time working the muscles from just above the ankle up towards the knee. This will work out the tightness in the calves as well as flush the toxins out of the area. Roll the calves for 5-7 minutes then stretch them as you would with the plantar fascitis holding the stretch for 30 seconds and repeating three times.

For painful volleyball shoulder, reducing muscle spasms and increasing range of motion will improve hitting and reduce the chances of a more serious injury. The most common problem areas are the rotator cuff, the upper trapezius, and levator scapulae muscles. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that are located just behind the shoulder. The upper trapezius and levator muscles are located on the spine side of the shoulder blade and near the top of the back. These muscles are involved with nearly every movement of the shoulder.

To reduce the spasms in these muscles, a tennis ball can be used to work out the extremely tight areas of the muscles known as trigger points. Place a tennis ball all the way to the toe of a long sock and drape it over your shoulder so that the tennis ball rests just behind the shoulder, just inside of the armpit. Press the tennis ball against a wall and roll it back and forth to roll out the tight muscles and trigger points. Repeat this for the upper trapezius and the levator scapulae muscles. Roll these muscles out for 3-5 minutes on a daily basis. Stretch the rotator cuff muscles out by bringing the arm across your chest and pulling it with the other hand. You will feel the stretch of muscles and hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times. To stretch the upper trapezius and levator scapulae check out this video demonstration.

If you continue to experience pain or discomfort after employing these treatments, seek professional physical therapy help.

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