Monday, February 14, 2011

Living with the pain; a headache and a migraine

In this post I'll be addressing an important topic on headaches and migraines which is relevant to many people and which I hope can shed a little light on how to deal with this type of illness.

I suffer from severe headaches, and sometimes migraine. A severe headache can be defined as a mild pain anywhere across the forehead which can stick around for many hours, occasionally all day. It can also be defined as a concentrated pain, and for me it is mostly targeted right under one of my eyebrows. These headaches can be particularly stressful and debilitating, and that's not even to mention migraines.

A migraine, which thankfully I now don't experience as often as before, completely reduces my ability to do anything, apart from groan! Along with the pain of headaches, a migraine may possess some or all of the following things:
  1. squinting at sources of light
  2. dizziness
  3. inability to walk
  4. feeling faint
  5. nausea
  6. body rapidly fluctuating between hot and cold
  7. the seemingly involuntary shaking of the body, particularly the legs

I wouldn't wish any type of headache upon anyone. It's an awful struggle, especially when others who don't suffer from them dismiss them as nothing, and particularly if you strain to find an effective medicine.

Headaches can be triggered from both external and internal sources. The sun, heat, noise, bright lights, glaring TV or computer screens, can inflict stress on the eyes and cause headaches. A lack of sufficient blood flow to the head or disrupted sleeping patterns can bring on added tension too and lead to the onset of a headache.

It can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of headaches, but that's essential in diagnosing the problem and identifying the correct, most effective medication.

I'm sure I'm not alone amongst my readers in being plagued with headaches. My mum has horror headaches that can last for weeks at a time. My sister-in-law suffers from severe headaches, limiting her power to properly function. These are just two of the people close around me who endure this lonesome suffering. So I'm going to give you some simple tips that I've discovered as I've gradually accepted that I'll always suffer from headaches.

Accepting it is a big step forward actually. Headaches now are a normal part of my life, a familiar trial that I'm called to go through regularly. I don't call for them to come but I'm certainly ready to act before they come and when they arrive and I know certain things I can do to weaken and control the pain. I've been able to realise additionally, that if a headache is the worst thing I have to encounter, then I'm really fortunate indeed - there are countless people filling hospital beds with a lot more problems than me.

There are two ways of combating headaches:

1. preventing them
2. curing them


This is the hardest part simply because a sufferer may never know when a headache is about to begin. They can arrive at times and moments you are not expecting.

  • drink plenty of water every day at regular intervals, but don't overdo it - a glass of water every couple of hours and with each meal. It washes out toxins from your system and contains oxygen.
  • eat healthy foods to minimise the possibility of developing a headache due to internal causes springing from an unhealthy diet.
  • avoid over-exposure to direct sunlight. The sun is a lethal ball of fire. Whilst 10-15 minutes in the early morning sun can be a rich source of vitamin D, longer periods in the afternoon sun can lead to heat stroke, dehydration and headache. Wear a cap, a pair of sunglasses, cover the neck. (This is particularly appropriate if you live in a hot country near the equator, like me!)
  • avoid spending lengthy periods staring at the TV or computer screen. The stress on the eyes, neck and back can bring on headaches. You will know when too long is too long - your body will let you know. (My neck is already starting to ache).
  • open windows in your house during the day to allow a constant flow of air through your home.
  • when cooking using gas, open a nearby window to allow the carbon dioxide to escape, or it will be breathed in by you and create a higher chance of a headache.
  • get enough sleep at proper times. Once sleep is missed, it cannot be replaced. Headaches are a common result of tiredness.
  • crystal energy. Crystals, or gemstones, come in a plethora of types and forms, but what they have in common is energy. They vibrate and can transfer certain energies to your body. Amethyst is specifically good at treating headaches, both preventing and curing.


There are many 'cures' out there; it's just a matter of finding a way that works for you.

  • "caffox" - I came upon this medication in the form of a small tablet from my local pharmacy. It works a treat and is the most effective 'pill' I've ever used. The headache disappears within the hour. I also use "Wilko Extra Power" pills (photo below). They are a supermarket's own brand but are very effective. However, I would try not to over-use one specific medication as your body can become immune to it and you'll find that it no longer works.

  • breathing exercises - breathe deeply through the nostrils to allow oxygen into your lungs, head and body. Try covering your left nostril whilst breathing in through the other for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds then breathe out through the left nostril whilst covering the right one. Do it vice-versa and continue the exercise for a good 10-15 minutes until the pain subsides.
  • doing something you're passionate about - listen to a piece of classical music, your favourite song, watch a movie you love, a sporting event, anything that can take your mind off the headache. Yes, sometimes a headache can be a mental hurdle, and not necessarily a physical challenge.
  • have a shower or bath - flowing water can be relaxing and therapeutic to the body. Wash your hair with shampoo, allow the water to run on your head for a few minutes. I particularly find it relieving under hot water.
  • massage - this has worked for me many times. My wife has massaged my forehead, scalp and temples on numerous occasions, which has been highly effective in removing pain.
  • balm - apply generous amounts of any type of balm across the forehead and temples. The stinging sensation can help alleviate the pain associated with a headache. Here in Malaysia we have "Siang Pure Oil", an orange liquid which burns when applied. It's a good temporary relief, especially for weaker headaches.

  • sleep - Sometimes just lying down and having a good sleep is the best remedy as the body begins repairing itself. For severe headaches and migraines, this may not be possible.
  • Another thing you could try is menthol patches like the ones pictured, below. You can stick them across your forehead and let them soothe for as long as it takes.

  • prayer - the idea of a Supreme Being who possesses all power can be a great source of healing through the prayer of faith. It is often used as a last resort when all other methods of cure have failed. Perhaps prayer could be applied as a first port of call for those who have faith.
  • exercise - exercise stimulates blood flow around the body, opens arteries that carry blood and oxygen to, amongst others, the head, and has a rejuvenating and therapeutic effect. Do some stretches, go for a slow walk and appreciate the scenes of nature. This should also be done as part of a healthy approach to life and be counted in the 'prevention' category too.
  • human touch - the skin is a highly sensitive organ of the body. Hug a friend or a loved one. Stroke your partner. If you are married, consider sexual medicine. Sex produces the strongest emotions, is a form of physical exercise, promotes vigorous blood flow, and has the ability to eliminate stress and pain.
  • If you have a pet (I have a dog), they can be extremely therapeutic! Hug, stroke, kiss your pet. They have the life force and can treat your pain.
  • eat - try eating food. Often, 'hunger headaches' can be fixed simply by eating. Dark chocolate and raisins seem to be very beneficial for me too. A good curry can also clear out the airways and invigorate your head.
  • drink lukewarm honey water. Got this tip from a family member and it has worked for me on a couple of recent occasions.

In the following youtube video, I classify the types of headache I suffer from:

I hope these ideas can help those who suffer alone from the distressing pain of headaches and migraines. 

Remember, you are not alone!


  1. Great post, Duncan.

    I suffer from migraines; for instance, like today, a short rest really helped. The symptoms are spot on, and I agree with you on accepting it and just know what to do when it does come. Even though migraines are not pleasant at all, I feel incredibly grateful that it's something very minor and that there are remedies to cure it, or time itself will fix it. Shall give some of the cures you mentioned a go next time!

  2. I"m a slave of headache too sometimes. You are right, sleeping is a big help. SLEEP HEALS.

    Thanks for this very informative entry.

  3. thanks for the congrats! looks like you guys are having a wonderful time. :)

  4. Some useful stuff here, I know my dad suffers from migraines. I hope I don't inherit them myself

  5. sorry to hear about your headaches. I am glad that I don't suffer from migraines. Great that you did a list of what you can do to ease the pain!

    Have a nice day and be well!

    Thank you very much for your comment on my blog!


  6. To everyone who has commented here, thanks for taking the time to read through this article on a very important matter. Hope it's been helpful for you or people you know.

  7. Thank you very much for this post. As you read in my post, I have pretty bad headaches almost every day. Unfortunately, your symptoms that you named, I barely have any of. And i have tried many of the cures and preventions you named.
    I'm glad to know there are things still to try, but I wish I had an answer to my pain.
    Also, since you mention in my post, I have seen some, but I can't see a doctor decent because I have no health insurance. Neurologists who might know about serious illnesses cost far too much in my situation.
    Thanks again for the post.

  8. Thank you for this brilliants article Duncan. I know exactly what you go through. It's annoying when you tell someone you have a headache and they say, "What, again?" I find the breathing exercises very helpful, in fact I did them this morning and felt great afterwards. I wish I could sleep soundly. These days my sleep is broken every night. I don't drink enough water and need to start drinking it regularly. Sadly I stare at a computer screen all day at work and wear a headset which can be very uncomfortable and add to the feeling of tension. Yoga exercises are great to smooth the tension in my head, neck and shoulders. Much of the headache medication available does nothing to alleviate my headaches. I have come to accept them as part of my make-up, like you have. They can be very debilitating at times though and I have been known to feel very sorry for myself sometimes.
    Thank you for sharing this well written article. It's good to know I'm not alone. (I really hope you haven't inherited these monster headaches from me!)

  9. LunaSihne, thanks so much for your comments, I wish you all the best in getting to grips with your headaches.

    Mum, I think I have inherited them from you, oh well. Sitting in front of the computer screen all day at work is not going to help at all. Isn't there anything you can do about that? Hope these techniques bring you some relief.

  10. Thank you for writing this post. It is very helpful.


Thank you for your thoughts, comments and opinions. I'll be responding soon! I will not be publishing anonymous comments so make sure you leave your name with your comment!


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