Selected Headache Insights

Selected Headache Insights

By David J. DeRose, MD, MPH
Prepared for the Three Angels Broadcasting Network’s Health for a Lifetime
Taped December 2005


1. Caffeine. Many people have headaches that are perpetuated by caffeine consumption.

a. If headaches tend to occur when you decrease your caffeine consumption, suspect a connection

b. Many people sensitive to caffeine appear to do best by making a clean break with all-caffeine containing beverages

c. Note: abrupt caffeine cessation often provokes caffeine withdrawal headaches lasting several days to a week. Nonetheless, most people find it is easier to address their habit with abrupt cessation rather than tapering their consumption. (Tapering off caffeine may also result in headaches, thus ultimately protracting the withdrawal process.)


2. Other common dietary triggers for migraines include chocolate, alcohol, and cheese. Other less common triggers are worthy of consideration. Therefore, one approach involves a caffeine-free vegetarian diet that excludes onions, MSG, citrus fruits, and nuts. If headaches occur a couple of times per week, it is likely that any effective regimen would be met with noticeable improvement within a month.


3. Hydrotherapy possibilities

a. Separate hydrotherapy strategies exist for muscle tension and migraine headaches.

b. Heat to the neck muscles often helps muscle tension headaches. (Note: stretching and neck exercises can also help with neck muscle tension—a predisposing factor for muscle contraction headaches.)

c. The standard hydrotherapy for a migraine (vascular) headache is ice to the head and neck coupled with heat to the feet and legs (applied as either a hot foot bath or a hot half bath—bathing in warm water up to the waist)


4. Physical exercise: a daily exercise program can sometimes make a significant difference in decreasing the tendency toward muscle tension headaches.


5. Herb and medication options

a. Many report the consistent use of feverfew staves off migraine headaches (note: capsules are often better tolerated than tea)

b. Prophylactic (preventive) medications are another option; these drugs are taken daily to prevent the occurrence of headache. Common classes of medications employed include: calcium-channel blockers, beta blockers, and tricyclic agents. Some individuals may find particular advantages to low dose amitriptyline which features muscle relaxant, sedative, and antimigraine properties.