LIFE’S BIG (AND LITTLE) HEADACHES: YOUR SURVIVAL GUIDE


headache, eyestrain, stress, tension, migraine, mindfulness, massage, acupuncture


Is it the eyestrain of staring at a computer screen all day?

Or, maybe it is the stress of a deadline that seems impossible to meet?

Even when the cause is hard to pinpoint, you can feel that tension headache creeping up and…

YOU KNOW

what it is going to feel like when that dull sense of pain takes residence between your temples!

Then there are the much more pervasive and troublesome types of neurological disturbances…

MIGRAINES!

Picture the kind of ache in your head that keeps you in bed, lights off, whispering, for hours if not days.

They are more than just headaches; they can often feel unbearable.

Headaches and migraines come to us for a myriad of reasons. Already mentioned were EYESTRAIN and STRESS, but there are other common causes that you may not have considered (SOURCE):

  • Stress
  • Emotional distress
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Certain foods or food allergies
  • Environmental exposures,
  • Infection
  • Constipation
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Fatigue
  • Eyestrain
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration


What creates a headache for one person may result in a migraine for another. There are so many factors to consider that it cannot be reduced to a one size fits all diagnosis and solution.

“As a neurological ailment, [headaches and] migraines impact the whole person, not just the head, so it follows that treatments are based on whole-person assessment, understanding and treatment.” (SOURCE)

Western medicine addresses the alleviation of many symptoms. In our headache and migraine survival guide, we would like to offer some complementary therapies from a naturopathic perspective.

Common headaches are often called tension headaches. It follows that STRESS MANAGEMENT is an important tool in relieving tension from the body.


There are a few things you can try if you suspect tension or stress may be at the root of your headache or migraine:

  1. Practicing Mindfulness – as you feel the onset of a headache or migraine, simply notice the tension in your mind and body and give yourself permission to relax in those areas.
  1. Breathing Exercises – in the most stressful moments, when you know a headache is imminent, try the “Box Breathing” pattern by inhaling for 4 counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and then holding for four counts. Repeat as needed.
  1. Movement – try simple exercises such as stretching at your desk, taking a break at lunch for an in person or online yoga session, or simply taking a walk around the block can be helpful.


During the pandemic, you might have found yourself typing away on your laptop from the couch.

Did you know that BODY POSITIONING and alignment of the spine can affect the level and frequency of headaches and migraines?


Naturopathic doctors are trained to assess and correct physiological issues in your bodily structure that may be a contributing factor when you experience headaches or migraines.

  1. Massage – assists in relaxing tense muscles
  1. Manipulation/ Adjustments – assures that head, spine and skeletal structure are in alignment
  1. Acupuncture – increases blood flow and calms the nervous system


Systemic inflammation plays a detrimental role in overall wellness and how a body feels. Therefore, it is important to pay proper attention to your needs in terms of NUTRITION in order to prevent and/ or eliminate headaches and migraines.


The following are a few suggestions that may assist you in doing just that:

  1. Hydration – adequate hydration fluctuates from person to person, but staying hydrated makes a difference in preventing headaches and migraines.
  1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet – a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and wild caught fish, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats reduces the likelihood of headaches and migraines
  1. Herbs/ Supplements* that are known to reduce headaches and migraines:


Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) – has been shown to reduce migraine symptoms and has long been used as a supplement option

Magnesium – often times those that suffer from headaches or migraines are found to have low doses of magnesium in their blood stream.

Feverfew – a member of the daisy family, feverfew is an herb that can be ingested and has shown to be useful in the treatment of headaches and migraines.


*Always consult your naturopathic doctor before introducing herbs or supplements to your diet.

Although there are very valid and useful treatments offered by western medicine, a naturopathic perspective can be beneficial in getting to the root cause of your symptoms for headaches and migraines.

Dr. Fisel can help you find natural solutions and relief if you are battling with problematic headaches or migraines. If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule your consultation.


RESOURCES:

https://aanmc.org/featured-articles/naturopathic-approaches-to-headaches/
https://naturemed.org/natural-relief-for-migraine-headache-symptoms/



Why Your Injuries Aren’t Healing Properly

injuryOveruse injuries are something I see in my practice on an almost daily basis.  Whether it’s low back pain from running, shoulder pain from lifting weights, or neck pain from being in the wrong position for too long, most of us have experienced an issue related to muscle pain.  Most of us have been told what to do when it comes to dealing with the immediate trauma-rest, ice, compression, elevation, etc.  But what about the majority of you who aren’t getting relief weeks, months, or sometimes years after the initial trauma? What I’m finding is that the typical approach to soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, ligaments) is actually leading to further damage, and a long-term weakening of tissue.   [Read more…]

Drug Overdoses Responsible for More Deaths Than Car Accidents

More Americans now die from drug overdoses than in car accidents, according to a new government report released Tuesday.

In 2008, poisoning deaths became the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States and the leading cause of injury death in 30 states, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety percent of these poisonings were linked to drugs, with a surge in deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses reported.

“During the past three decades, the number of drug poisoning deaths has increased sixfold, from about 6,000 deaths in 1980 to over 36,500 in 2008,” said report author Margaret Warner, an injury epidemiologist at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, who added that this trend is only expected to continue.

The authors of the report found a 90 percent increase in poisoning deaths since 1999, while deaths from car accidents have dropped 15 percent in the same period.

By 2008, nine out of every 10 poisoning deaths were due to drugs. In that year, some 77 percent of these deaths were unintentional, 13 percent were suicides and 9 percent were of undetermined intent, according to the report.

Over the last 10 years, these increases were seen among both men and women and in all age and race/ethnic groups, Warner said. In 2008, the highest rates were among males and those aged 45 to 54.

In 2008, more than 40 percent of poisoning deaths were due to opioid painkillers. That’s way up from 1999 when these drugs were involved in only 25 percent of these deaths, Warner said. “CDC has called this an epidemic,” she noted.

In 1999, there were 4,000 deaths related to painkillers, but by 2008 that number had tripled, to almost 15,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

These deaths also vary by state. Although it isn’t clear why drug deaths vary across the country, one reason might be the different laws states have for controlling the use of prescription painkillers, Warner said.

Deaths are an accurate way to get a handle on the size of the problem, because these are definitive data, Warner said.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said “we knew this was coming; it shouldn’t shock anybody. It’s disturbing though.”

More attention needs to be devoted to this problem, Bernstein noted. “It needs to be attacked from multiple angles and multiple levels in the way we have made headway in trauma,” he said.

“There are newer and better drugs and that’s great for treating people’s pain, but they come with a price,” Bernstein pointed out. “There is addiction and interactions with other drugs, and potential for overdose and misuse.”

The number of users and abusers of these drugs is much greater than those who die from them, Warner added. “This is the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

By 2010, 12 million Americans said they were using opioid painkillers without a prescription. In 2009, almost 500,000 emergency room visits were for abuse of these painkillers. This costs health insurance companies as much as $72 billion a year in direct costs, the CDC said in a November report.

Dr. Chris Jones, a CDC health scientist who was not involved in the latest report, said that deaths from opioid painkillers have “increased significantly over the last decade. We have also seen an increase in people who have nonfatal overdoses who are showing up in emergency departments.”

In fact, there was a 98 percent increase in emergency room visits due to these painkillers between 2004 and 2009, he said. These emergency room visits are greater than those seen for overdoses of heroin and cocaine, Jones added.

The dramatic increase in deaths and overdoses from prescription drugs is due to a vastly increased use of these drugs by doctors. “Between 1999 and 2010, the sales of these drugs increased fourfold,” he explained.

“Part of this is an attempt to better treat pain. As we have seen the medical use go up, we have also seen the abuse of these products go up,” Jones said.

This doesn’t have to be as widespread of a problem as it has become. There are plenty of alternative methods that can be used to reduce pain, including acupuncture, naturopathic manipulation, and nutritional/herbal interventions.  The data here is pretty clear-the use of prescription painkillers is seriously risky business, and puts you at a much higher risk for long-term complications, especially addiction.  Please consider all other options before agreeing to take painkillers, and consult with your local naturopathic physician for the appropriate guidance.

Neuropathy and Natural Medicine

Neuropathy, whether it’s diabetic or idiopathic, is often challenging to treat, with any modality. However, I do find that the combination of acupuncture and naturopathic interventions tend to be much more successful than the “standard” protocol (which usually includes gabapentin and various cocktails of prescription painkillers). A recent study from the journal Diabetes Care (2011 July 25) discovered that 600 mg/day of the nutrient alpha-lipoic acid lead to a clinically significant improvement in patients with diabetic neuropathy. Clinically, I’ve also found that other forms of neuropathy often respond well to alpha-lipoic acid therapy as well. Other treatments that help to enhance peripheral circulation and restore nutrition to damaged nerves, such as acetyl-l-carnitine, mixed bioflavonoids, and B-vitamins, can also be beneficial in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.

It’s not uncommon for people to be kept on medications for life when trying to deal with peripheral neuropathy pain, with the resulting relief being minimal at best. If this is something you have suffered from, don’t be afraid to seek alternatives, as there is enough clinical and research evidence to support the benefits.

Acupuncture and Anxiety

In my practice, I’m always amazed at how effectively acupuncture is able to diminish the severity of anxiety, even for patients who experience panic attacks other extreme forms of this condition. A recent study measured the response of patients to acupuncture before operations, and how well it was able to reduce their anxiety levels. The results showed a marked decrease in anxiety levels after acupuncture was performed. Although this study applied exclusively to preopearative anxiety, it still demonstrates the efficacy of acupuncture in treating stress and anxiety. 

Please don’t be afraid to seek out acupuncture if you’re burdened by chronic stress, as you’re otherwise overlooking a proven treatment that could end up being very effective in your quest to destress.
“Comparing the treatment effectiveness of body acupuncture and auricular acupuncture in preoperative anxiety treatment,” Wu S, Liang J, et al, J Res Med Sci, 2011 Jan; 16(1): 39-42. (Address: Department of Psychology, School of Aerospace Medicine, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, China).

PCOS Patients Benefit From Exercise and Acupuncture

Acupuncture and physical exercise improve hormone levels and menstrual bleeding pattern in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), reveals research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. 

PCOS is a common disorder that affects up to 10% of all women of child-bearing age. Women with PCOS frequently have irregular ovulation and menstruation, with many small immature egg follicles in the ovaries. This causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone which, in turn, leads to troublesome hair growth and acneObesity, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease are also widespread among these patients. 

In the current study, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, a group of women with PCOS were given acupuncture where the needles were stimulated both manually and with a weak electric current at a low frequency that was, to some extent, similar to muscular work. A second group was instructed to exercise at least three times a week, while a third group acted as controls. All were given information on the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet. 

“The study shows that both acupuncture and exercise reduce high levels of testosterone and lead to more regular menstruation,” says docent associate professor Elisabet Stener-Victorin, who is responsible for the study. “Of the two treatments, the acupuncture proved more effective.” 

Although PCOS is a common disorder, researchers do not know exactly what causes it. “However, we’ve recently demonstrated that women with PCOS have a highly active sympathetic nervous system, the part that isn’t controlled by our will, and that both acupuncture and regular exercise reduced levels of activity in this system compared with the control group, which could be an explanation for the results.” 

In my experience, women I’ve seen with PCOS respond extraordinarily well to nutritional, botanical, and dietary interventions. Plus, conventional medical treatments tend to be very “piecemeal”, treating each component of PCOS as individual symptoms, rather than addressing the body as a whole. As this study confirms, exercise and acupuncture are other treatments that can be implemented to successfully reverse PCOS.  

Acupuncture, Hot Flashes, and Tamoxifen

The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a recent study demonstrating the benefits of acupuncture for treating hot flashes and other side-effects related to chemotherapy and tamoxifen. Patients used in the study had been receiving tamoxifen for at least 6 months, and experiencing at least 4 hot flashes and night sweats per day for at least 3 months. Treatment with acupuncture (8 treatments) was found to reduce the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats by an average of 50%. At the end of the treatment period, significant improvements were found in: anxiety/fears; memory/concentration; menstrual problems; sexual behavior; sleep problems; somatic symptoms; and vasomotor symptoms. The authors state, “These results compare favorably with other studies using acupuncture to manage HF&NS, as well as research on nonhormonal pharmaceutical treatments. In addition to reduced HF&NS frequency, women enjoyed improved physical and emotional well-being, and few side-effects were reported.”