Head Pain Part 2
I promised a second part to my headache post, so here it is! I’ll briefly chat about causes of different headaches and how to address them.
Tension-type headaches (TTH) are well-named as they are actually caused by “tension” in the musculo-skeletal (MSK) system. This can be muscle tension from neck, back, shoulder or face muscles, often due to repetitive postures/positions (think sitting at a desk all day with your head forward and staring at a screen). TTHs can also be due to eye strain from looking at a screen too long, squinting from trying to see things in a distance or even squinting in sunlight. Stress is also a common cause of TTH. Naturopathic treatments of these headaches are aimed at reducing stress, posture correction, reducing muscle tension and correcting spinal malalignments.
Migraines have several root causes, and are often multifactorial. Some causes include:
- Recent or past brain injury (concussion, whiplash, repetitive micro-trauma)
- Unidentified food sensitivities
- Neurotoxicity/excitotoxicity in the brain (from dietary and environmental toxins such as heavy metals, moulds, pesticides or artificial sweeteners)
- Hormone imbalances (estrogen excess or deficiency, progesterone deficiency, thyroid hormone deficiency or rapid changes in hormone levels)
- Stress (physical, mental or emotional)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Metabolic abnormalities (low glucose levels)
- Overuse of certain medications
Symptom relief is still important to address in conjunction with treating the cause as migraines can be debilitating for individuals and can greatly affect their daily life. Naturopathic treatments focus on the root cause of migraines for each individual which can often be determined using a detailed health history, physical exams and some lab work. It’s important to remember that “chronic migraine” is very seldom an actual diagnosis but a symptom of something else going on in the body.
(Temporomandibular) TMJ Syndrome is often caused by dysfunction in the TMJ joint or surrounding tissues. Examples include:
- Osteoarthritis of the TMJ or rheumatoid arthritis
- TMJ malalignment leading to improper movement and tracking of the joint
- Facial & oral muscle tightness (due to stress, anger, teeth grinding, laughing too hard – if that’s a thing…)
- Other muscle tension in the body including neck, shoulder, back, chest or even abdominal muscles. The body is like a “chain” and every piece works together, if one area has a dysfunction then other areas are affected down the line.
- Trauma to the joint or any other area of the body
- Dental issues such as cavities
These three conditions are relatively common and are often treated only symptomatically with painkillers while the root cause is ignored. Book an appointment with me or a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) in your area if you have been experiencing chronic pain due to these conditions to identify the cause and customize a treatment plan for you.
Dr. Michelle Gaucher