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

drugs, overdose, pain, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, Connecticut  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.

Anxiety, Cancer, and Music

As some of you may know, I’m an avid music lover, so I’m always excited when I see research that confirms the therapeutic benefits of music.

A new Cochrane research review shows how music can reduce anxiety, and may also have positive effects on mood, pain and quality of life.

Evidence from 1,891 patients taking part in 30 trials was examined-13 of the trials involved trained music therapists, while the other 17 trials studied patients who listened to pre-recorded music. The results showed that in comparison to standard treatments, anxiety levels were significantly reduced by music, based on clinical anxiety scores. Music was also shown to have beneficial effects for patients with chronic pain-heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure saw smaller beneficial effects.

Lead researcher Joke Bradt of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, US., explained

“The evidence suggests that music interventions may be useful as a complementary treatment to people with cancer.

Music interventions provided by trained music therapists as well as listening to pre-recorded music both have shown positive outcomes in this review, but at this time there is not enough evidence to determine if one intervention is more effective than the other.”

Bradt continues

“It should be noted, however, that when patients can’t be blinded to an intervention, there is an opportunity for bias when they are asked to report on subjective measures like anxiety, pain mood and quality of life.”

While additional studies may be necessary to confirm some of these findings, I would emphasize incorporating some form of musical enjoyment into your daily routine, whether you’re sick or not!

The Definition of Holistic Medicine

I’m posting an article written by Dr. David Katz, as I think it is a fantastic summary of what I strive for in my own practice, which is to emphasize healing by relying on both clinical intuition and scientific research, as too much focus on one or the other is not in the best interest of the patient. 

 

Holistic Medicine: How To Define It

 

We are probably all familiar with things that are tough to define,
but that we recognize when we see them. No, I’m not planning on talking
about that one

The term I have in mind is: holistic.

I practice holistic medicine. Specifically, for the past decade, I have directed a rather unique clinic that provides what we call ‘evidence-based integrative care.’ We have published and presented details of the model.

People tend to have a strong sense of what holistic means, whether or not they can actually define it. Detractors see it as an indication of quackery
without looking past the label. Proponents embrace it as an emblem of
virtuous humanism. Holistic is good, and all else … less so.

But if that is really true — if holistic care is better (I’m among
those who believes it is) — then a workable definition is important.
First, so that people who want to sign up for holistic care — to give
it, or receive it — know what they are signing up for, exactly. And
second, and more importantly, because you can’t practice what you can’t
define. Unless we can say just what holistic care is, it can’t be
taught, tested, replicated, or improved.

The medical version of TheFreeDictionary tells
us that holistic care is: “a system of comprehensive or total patient
care that considers the physical, emotional, social, economic, and
spiritual needs of the person; his or her response to illness; and the
effect of the illness on the ability to meet self-care needs.”

I am comfortable with this in theory, but not in practice. In
practice, it begs the question: how, exactly, do you do that? What does
considering ‘physical, emotional, social, economic, and spiritual needs’
look like in a doctor/patient encounter? What is a clinician actually
supposed to do in a room with a patient so that the care that transpires
between them is holistically concordant with this definition?

Let’s acknowledge that platitudes don’t really help. Of course, a
holistic practitioner looks beyond a battered body part to the whole
body; looks beyond the body to the mind and spirit; looks beyond the
individual to the body politic of which they are an intimate part; and,
if responsible, looks at the body of pertinent scientific evidence as
well.

But a devotion to holism does not impart mystical prowess to
clinician, or patient. No one gets a magic wand that allows for a
complex array of medical problems to be fixed all at once. Holistic
care is, in fact, most important when it’s hardest to do — when there
is a lot that needs fixing. I suppose there may be a holistic way to
suture the finger of a healthy, young person lacerated while dicing
zucchini, but I doubt it would matter much. It does, however, matter a
great deal in complex cases of chronic illness, attendant despair,
social isolation, and hopelessness. And at such times, it’s really hard!

Here’s an illustration, based on any number of patients we’ve treated
over the years. Consider a woman of roughly 70, who comes to the
clinic ostensibly to get dietary advice because she wants to lose
weight. She is, indeed, obese — with a body mass index of 32. She has
high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and is on medication for these.
Her husband passed away 4 years ago, and she lives alone. She is
lonely, tends toward sadness, and is always tired. She sleeps poorly.

She eats in part because she is often hungry, in part to get
gratification she doesn’t get from other sources. She does not exercise
because she has arthritis that makes even walking painful. Her arthritis
has worsened as her weight has gone up, putting more strain on already
taxed hips and knees. Medication for her joint pains irritates her
stomach, and worsens her hypertension. There’s more, but you get the
idea.

I regret to say that medical practice propagates its own uncouth
vernacular, resorted to in part to relieve the pressure of 30 hour
shifts and life and death crises. Much of the slang is too shameful to
share, but one term is especially germane to a case such as the one
above: circling the drain. A complex array of medical, emotional and
social problems really can resemble a cascade in which each malady
worsens another, and the net effect is a downward spiral into despondent
disability. Circling the drain is crude, but apt.

I present the term here because it actually has hidden utility. If
you can descend one degenerating spiral at a time, you can reverse
engineer the process — and ascend the same way! In my view, that is
what holistic care — in its practical details — needs to be.

For the hypothetical case in question, and innumerable real people
like her, reversing a descent begins with one well prioritized move in
the other direction. So, for instance, it is likely that this woman has
markedly impaired sleep, due perhaps to sleep apnea. A test and
intervention to address this effectively may be the best first move for a
number of reasons.

Poor sleep can cause, and/or compound
depression; poor sleep invariably lowers pain thresholds, making things
hurt that otherwise might not, and things that would hurt anyway, hurt
more; poor sleep leads to unrestrained and emotional eating; poor sleep
leads to hormonal imbalances that foster hypertension, insulin
resistance, and weight gain; and poor sleep saps energy that might
otherwise be used for everything from social interactions, to exercise.

Whether a focus on sleep is the right first step will vary with the
patient, of course. But let’s imagine that in this case it is a good
choice, as I have found it to be on a number of occasions. So, we
intervene accordingly — just to improve sleep. So far, this doesn’t
sound defensibly holistic. But it does sound like something the patient
might be able to tolerate.

But as soon as sleep does improve, the benefits start to accrue. Ms.
Patient has a bit less pain, a bit more energy, and a slightly more
hopeful outlook. So now that she has some more resources, we ask more of
her. We now need her to invest these benefits back into herself! Let’s
use that energy to start a gentle exercise regimen (water-based if need
be to avoid joint strain); initiate some social activity of interest to
get some stimulation and purpose reintroduced; and perhaps begin the
process of dietary improvements to address the weight loss goals
initially espoused. We might also start a course of massage therapy or
acupuncture to further alleviate joint pain, now that Ms. P believes
feeling better is possible.

A little exercise further improves energy, and sleep, and
self-esteem; and actually helps ease joint pain. Less pain further
improves energy, sleep — and willingness to exercise. Social engagement
— perhaps a church or civic group — confers gratification that no
longer needs to come from food. Hormonal rebalancing that occurs with
restoration of circadian rhythms alleviates constant hunger. Diet
improves. Medication doses are dialed down. Helpful supplements may be
started.

Weight loss starts. Energy goes up. Joint pain improves some more.
Physical activity becomes less and less problematic, and increases
incrementally. Energy and sleep improve further, weight loss picks up.
With more hope, and more opportunity to get out, Ms. P establishes, or
reestablishes social contacts that restore friendship and love to their
rightful place in her life. Her spirit rises, and with it, the energy
she has to invest back into her own vitality.

And so on — with many time consuming details left out, of course.
This may sound like wishful thinking — but it’s a rewarding reality I
have been privileged to help choreograph innumerable times over the past
decade.

If the erosion of health is a degenerating spiral, then its reclamation is a spiral staircase.
Which leads to the good news, and bad, about holistic care, practically
— and practicably — defined. The good news is that with real
dedication and a commitment to one another and the process, almost every
clinician and patient can find a way to ascend at least some distance
toward the heights of holistic vitality. The bad news is that I’ve yet
to see a helicopter fly in to get anyone there in one fell swoop. We all
need to be realistic. The climb is made one step at a time.

Dr. David L. Katz; www.davidkatzmd.com