Last month I wrote a magazine feature on headaches and it brought back some banging memories – and no, I am not talking ‘street’ for good ones.
Anyone who is prone to headaches will know that when you’ve got one that won’t budge, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.
Unfortunately in my case I am allergic to NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatories), which means that paracetamol is my only real relief. However, being stubborn, I always try to stick it out and take something as a last resort.
Two weeks ago I had a four-day mega headache/migraine – thankfully I knew the real reason for this was the rush of hormones from our happy news that we are expecting baby number two (which may explain the silence on my blog since February – growing a baby is quite exhausting as is moving house at the same time!). But, finally, I gave in on my midwife’s advice as she reassured me that paracetamol is safe during pregnancy – and so it went, at last.
And as a nation we are becoming more and more reliant on popping pills, with around 5 to 10 per cent of people with headaches actually getting them from taking too many painkillers (known as ‘medication over-use’ headaches).
Following advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that people who regularly take medicines, such as aspirin, paracetamol and triptans could be causing themselves more pain than relief, Martin Underwood, a GP and professor of primary care research at Warwick Medical School who chaired NICE’s guideline on medication overuse, said: “We have effective treatments for common headache types. However, taking these medicines for more than ten or fifteen days a month can cause medication overuse headache, which is a disabling and preventable disorder.
“Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get themselves into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse, so they take more medication which makes their pain even worse as they take more medication.”
What’s wrong with me?
I think that my reluctance when it comes to taking medication comes from a childhood memory that headaches can in fact be treated by a lot more than just medication – as well as the fact that being allergic to so much, I try not to become dependent on anything.
At the same time, headaches can be very scary because most of the time it’s hard to understand why you’ve got one. From a young age I remember often having a headache, sometimes it was every day, for days on end, until finally at the age of 9 my parents realised I wasn’t just putting it on.
I was taken to a cranial osteopath who found that when I was born I came out a little bit too fast… sorry mum. My skull plates weren’t quite in line (not the technical term, but forgive me this was 24 years ago!).
I can still remember the smell of the osteopath’s hands and the ointment he used. A year of treatment, including having my neck ‘cricked’, my least favourite part of it, and I was cured.
For me, there’s something quite satisfying about getting through the pain with something as simple as a good night’s sleep or by drinking more water – or in my case giving birth on just two painkillers – trust me, I wasn’t trying to be a martyr, I was just terrified of being numb from the waist down, feeling totally out of it, or being given something I was allergic to!
Are you sitting up straight?
Do let me know if you’ve had any success curing headaches with alternative remedies… my best one seems to be to have a hot shower, wash your hair and then to dry it straight away – something about the heat of the dryer seems to do the trick!