Hi, I'm a first time poster here.
I woke up this morning remembering a show about
people who suffered brutally bad migraine headaches. I used to be one of those people. I used to get the nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and sound as well as the utterly debilitating pain. Whole days would have to be spent in bed, with the curtains drawn tight, ice packs on my head and neck... in utter misery.
These days, I live a normal life free from migraine pain 99% of the time. And when I do start to get a migraine, it is easily fixed, and MUCH milder than before (no more lost days suffering in a dark room). Best of all, I don't need to take any medications.
Now, I hope to help others find the same freedom from pain. Please note: These are the solutions that worked for me. These may not help everyone, but for those of you who it might help, I *strongly* recommend you give my suggestions a try. I'll touch on several topics ranging from posture to diet to drugs.
First of all, there is a VERY strong correlation between subluxations in the upper verterbrae of my neck and the onset of neck/upper back tension and migraine headaches. A subluxation is where one or several verterbrae in the neck get rotated out-of-place. I can feel it jutting out slightly on one side or the other, and most tellingly if I turn my head to the left or right I'll hear "cracking" in my neck-- a clear indicator that my neck is out of alignment.
I've been to DOZENS of different chiropractors over the years, and there is a WIDE variance between the good ones and the not-so-good ones. Fortunately, I've found a GREAT one (and for those of you living in or near Mountain View, CA I'll be happy to forward his contact information). It's hard to describe what the difference is between a good and not-so-good chiropractor, but really your body will tell you by the results. For me, if I have a headache or even just some tension and visit my chiropractor, by the time I leave the office I am either 99% or totally pain free.
Specifically-- for me anyway-- the most immediate and effective chiropractic treatment I've received is a technique called an "occipital lift". I don't know the full biological reasons behind it, but apparenly a great deal of pressure-- which I believe to be dissolved gases?-- builds up in the fluid between my upper verterbrae (primarily the atlas), and my skull. (Has anyone ever felt pressure/pain in their finger joints and "cracked their knuckles" to relieve it? From my understanding, this is similar.) For the pressure in the joints of my upper spine, an occipital lift clears this up immediately. In fact, I have *literally* had a bad headache that I can tell is going to get worse, severe tension in my neck and shoulders... received an occipital lift and had the pain clear up immediately! I kid you not. Within a few hours, the muscular tension is gone as well.
Moreover, my chiropractor actually cares enough to take an interest in what is the root cause of my subluxations and working to prevent them in the first place. When I first visited him, he literally said, "You're in your early 30s-- still very young. You shouldn't need to come in here at all ideally, or maybe once in a great while-- every three months at most." (I was shocked, because many other chrios want you to come in every other day so they can maximize how much they bill you... and also typically will share little or no advice on how to prevent subluxations in the first place. As I said, I found a GREAT chiropractor-- someone who truly cares.)
Which leads me to the root cause of my subluxations (and probably many of yours) and how to prevent them and ideally, fix them.
Truly, the human body wasn't designed to *NEED* to have our spines manually adjusted periodically... but then again, we certainly weren't designed to suffer through debilitating migranes and have to hide in dark places for a day (or for some unfortunates, many days). I wonder: Other animals don't need to adjust each other-- somehow humans are doing things very different from other animals?
Well, for one thing, we sit in front of computers... for many of us, we do this all day at work and promptly go home and do it again. Without realizing it, many of us-- myself included-- allow our heads to jut forward when we're concentrating on what's on our screens. Many of us also have our heads forward when we walk. This is quite simply called Forward Head Posture (FHP) and it means that rather than having the weight of our heads resting squarely downward on our spines, we have our heads forward and our neck verterbrae are not aligned in a healthy, supportive curve. I don't know the physiology of it all, but I can say that since I've become aware of how I'm holding my head-- and my overall posture, for that matter-- I am able to keep my spine in better alignment.
(Also staring at a screen all day-- having a fixed focus on something a few feet in front of us-- exhausts the eyes. Our eyes were designed to focus near and far, not to stare at one thing all day. So... take breaks, get outside and do a bit of bird watching. Look at the farthest things you can see. As an eye exercise, try to read signs that are pretty far off. Basically, do anything to flex your eye muscles regularly-- the ones that stretch or relax your lens-- allowing you to focus on objects near or far. When my eyes get tired I start getting tense, and this can trigger headaches in me.)
How do you know if you're standing straight enough? A general rule is that your ear canal should be directly over the center of your shoulders. In your normal posture, stand sideways in front of somebody and have them check to see how far out your head juts. Now, keeping your head level, use your neck muscles to pull your head back until your ear canal is aligned with your shoulders. For many of you, this may feel uncomfortable, like you're having to keep your neck muscles tight. Your esophagus may feel slightly more constrained too. In all likelihood that's because years of having your head sticking out forward has stretched your esophagus a bit, and the strain in your neck muscles is likely because you're not used to keeping your head on straight. Truly, we all need to be aware of our body posture when we walk, sit, lay down, etc. Think about
how your spine is aligned. You'll also walk taller, which generally looks good and confident anyway.
But why do these vertebrae slip out of alignment so easily for some of us? Well let's be frank: We probably don't exercise nearly enough. It is the muscles of our necks and backs that keep our spines in alignment, with the healthy, natural curves they need to properly support us. Couple that with some of us being overweight, having our heads jutting forward, slouching and not being physically active... and it's no wonder that our spines go out of alignment.
So don't just go to a chiropractor, join a gym and exercise. Do neck and back exercises. Get your whole body in shape. Lose that gut! Jog, run, bike, swim! Any one of those will get you in better shape. (I've found that Muay Thai kickboxing is a GREAT way to get my body looking lean and mean.) Push yourself to get fitter, leaner, healthier. Not only will you help reduce the number of migraines you have, but you'll look better too and will probably live a longer, happier life! Do what you find fun but for crying out loud do something that gets your muscles working and your blood pumping for a good hour or more!
And while you're exercising, keep yourself well hydrated. In fact, I've found dehydration can also trigger migranes whether or not I'm working out. I carry two 1L bottles around with me that I fill up periodically throughout the day. I try to make sure that when I urinate it is never more than *slightly* yellowish, and definitely not dark or cloudy. If it ever is, I immediately go drink a glass of water. Make that a habit: yellow pee = drink a glass of water. Sip water throughout the day. Keep yourself hydrated.
Speaking of drinking fluids, cut back on your soda consumption! That stuff is absolutely terrible. The human body wasn't designed to try to eek some sort of hydration from a syrupy-sweet concoction of high fructose corn syrups, sugar, and artificial chemical flavorings. Don't get me wrong-- I very much like how a carbonated drink can cleanse the pallete, particularly when I'm eating... but now I make my own sodas. I've been drinking this particular drink for close to 5 years and I haven't grown tired of it. It's a very complicated recipe however, but here it is: Fill a glass slightly over halfway with seltzer water (I use the Safeway brand), add 100% grape juice (from Costco) and ice. Drink and enjoy. If it's a hot summer day, it's all the better. Also try it the next time you eat anything greasy. I've experimented a bit and used different juices and many tasted quite good, but for me-- grape soda is a de-li-cious alternative to the crap that multi-billion dollar soda companies spew out.
Don't get me wrong: I still drink the occasional Dr. Pepper or Pepsi, but I feel that drinking thse once in a while allows my body time to clean itself out. Speaking of which, try to cut way back on anything with either high fructose corn syrup, or partially hydrogenated oils. Both of these are in practically everything, so they're dificult to completely avoid (unless you only shop at Whole Foods)... but so long as you're reading labels and actively avoiding these whenever you can, you'll be doing yourself a HUGE favor.
Another thing I've found I need to keep to an absolute minimum: pork. This kills me because bacon tastes good! Pork chops taste good! Ham is mmm mmm good! It's also an almost guaranteed headache in 1 hr or so. It took me a LONG time to put the correlation together, but like clockwork, if I eat a bacon cheese burger (or any other pork)... in 30 mins or so I can already feel the tension starting at the back of my head (typically where it meets my neck). In an hour or two-- depending on how much I've consumed-- I'll have a full bore throbbing migraine. So-- like sodas-- I try to keep my pork consumption VERY limited (more as a light garnish than a meal).
In fact, there's a few different foods I've found that can trigger a headache, and I've semi-casually tried to keep track of them. I know that fresh morel mushrooms fried in butter are one of the true great mycological delicacies of this world. But a plate full of them is like a swift kick in the skull. In fact, I'd prefer a kick in the skull, because that pain eases sooner than the headache from the morels.
I won't go into my list of foods (I'm too tired at this point anyway), but each one of you should keep track of what you eat and when you get headaches. If you ate something at lunch and found that a few hours later you had a migraine, sometime later try eating that same food again (but not as much) and see if you get the same results. I've cut back on my overall sugar intake and have had some good results too. See what works for you. And remember, there's no need to suffer: It's all about
moderation... in some cases, extreme moderation. But hey, cutting back on a few things here and there is a very small price to pay for a lifetime free of migraines.
So ok, that's pretty much it from me. I can't be certain that everything I listed above is what helped me alleviate my migraine headaches, but I definitely DO feel that those suggestions I listed have improved my health and well-being overall, and some-- if not all-- have resulted in a dramatic reduction in my headaches.
If I had to rank them in their impact, I'd definitely say that exercise is #1, followed very closely by having a GREAT chiropractor-- both of these tie in closely with maintaining a good posture. Next most important is keeping myself well hydrated and reducing my soda consumption (except for healthy doses of delicious grape soda). Cutting out pork is a no-brainer for me, since I've seen time and again the direct correlation, but each of you may have different "trigger foods"-- so I highly recommend finding those. Cutting way back on high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated foods might be good for just my overall well-being, because I've certainly felt healtier and more energized since I've cut back on items containing these. Perhaps it's because from what I've read, these two are known to be shockingly bad for the body-- yet somehow they're included in so many foods??-- so it's a no-brainer to try to minimize my consumption of them.
If anything-- or any combination of things-- that I've suggested helps to minimize the number and severity of your migraines, then I am truly glad. Hopefully you'll be able to live a life nearly pain-free. These days, I very rarely get headaches, and if I do, they are MUCH milder than the migraines I used to get. So mild in fact that I take a Tylenol or aspirin as a last resort, and more often than not I simply take no pain medication at all. (And this is coming from someone who once even tried Demerol-- an opiate-based pain killer!-- to try to help my migraine pain.)
If after doing some or most of the things I've suggested you're finding that your migraines are gone or nearly so, I'd be happy to hear about
it, so please feel free to send me an email! Those of us who've suffered through nearly constant migraine headaches (I used to get them sometimes every 3-4 days) know that NOBODY deserves to live a life of such utter misery.
Best of luck to all of you.
Post Edited By Moderator (Annuk) : 10/14/2006 3:02:27 PM (GMT-6)