Do you regularly pop an aspirin or similar painkiller when you have a headache? If so, you may actually be causing more headaches to occur. British researchers have found that overuse of painkillers may cause severe, recurring headaches.
In 2012, the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) held a panel and created guidelines for treating headaches. Part of the first guideline was a warning to citizens not to overuse pain killers, as this practice only causes more headaches.
NICE panel leader, Professor Martin Underwood of Warwick Medical School, stated, “this can end up getting into a vicious cycle where your headache gets worse, so you take more painkillers, so your headache gets worse and this just becomes worse and worse and worse.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to five percent of the population has reported ‘medication overuse headaches.’ Manjit Matharu, a consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, approximates that about one in 50 people are affected.
Dr. Matharu said, “the figures in terms of the number of people who have medication overuse headaches are one in 50, so that is approximately a million people who have headaches on a daily or near daily basis because they’re using painkillers.” He also explained that the tipping point was between 10 and 15 days per month of using painkillers where the drugs started causing the headaches.
However, using painkillers even less than 10 days per month may be detrimental to your body. Over-the-counter medications may have dangerous side effects, as well as chemicals that build up in your system over time. Ibuprofen, for example, can cause liver damage with prolonged use.
The best way to control headaches is by prevention. Pay attention to your diet, avoiding grains and refined sugars, which have an inflammatory effect on the body and may cause headaches. Instead, choose plenty of organic fruits, veggies, proteins and healthy saturated fats, get adequate sleep, and try to walk outside every day. If you follow these guidelines, you may be surprised at how many fewer headaches you get.
If you already have a headache, there are multiple natural remedies you can try instead of reaching for the pill bottle. NICE is recommending acupuncture in some circumstances, which is an ancient Chinese practice of targeting pressure points with precisely-placed needles to relieve tension and pain.
One natural remedy that you can try to help relieve headache pain is a neck and temple massage with therapeutic grade wintergreen essential oil. This essential oil contains methyl salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, in natural form. Mix a few drops of wintergreen with a base oil, such as organic coconut oil, and apply to temples, wrists, and neck before massaging, breathing deeply and allowing your neck and temples to relax.
Feverfew is an herb that has traditionally been used to combat headaches. It has been linked to relaxing blood vessels, which may reduce ‘pounding’ headaches. However, use sparingly. Even though it is natural, it may cause more headaches with habitual use – save this one for rare instances.
If you are eating a healthy, organic diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and are still suffering from headaches, talk to a naturopathic practitioner to help get to the root of what may be causing your pain. Some people have also found relief through chiropractic adjustments.
For headaches, consider giving the natural way a try, and skipping the painkillers. They may do more harm than good.
-The Alternative Daily