“Now the drugs don’t work, they just make you worse”
Well the Verve could be right.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have revealed today that "common painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol and triptans could actually be the cause of the headaches" rather than relieving them.
This can be explained because drugs, including medication, are a toxic substance that need to be eliminated by the liver. A headache is a common symptom of an overworked liver - as many are aware after a heavy night out. The headache becomes more severe the more medication is consumed.
Dr Manjit Matharu of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery says: "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."
Painkillers can’t be considered as a cure for headaches. They block the pain receptors that are giving the brain the message that there is a problem. Painkillers are not addressing the problem of where the headache is really coming from. This study highlights the importance of listening to the body to find the cause of symptoms, not just deal with the symptoms themselves.
What is great is that NICE have recommended complementary medicine as an alternative to painkillers. I love it when the medical profession and the alternative movement have a group hug.
What could be causing headaches?
- Dehydration. Drinking water can sometimes be the best (and cheapest!) form of medicine. A lack of water affects the supply of blood and oxygen and this is what our body shows as dehydration headache. When a headache comes, reach for a glass of water rather than the medicine cabinet.
- Stress. When we are stressed the jaw tightens, sleep is disturbed and the hormones adrenaline and cortisol increase in the body to help us deal with stressful situations. This puts added pressure on the liver which causes headaches. Taking some time to breathe and relax will often provide short term relief from tension headaches. Dealing with the issues behind the stress will provide longer term solutions.
- Caffeine overload. Caffeine is a diuretic so removes water from the body. It is also a chemical that needs to be dealt with by the liver. Cut back on the coffee and swap to herbal tea which will hydrate the brain.
- Magnesium imbalance. The body uses magnesium to relax muscles in the body. An imbalance can cause muscles in the jaw, face and head to tighten and headaches to occur. We recommend a good quality magnesium supplement such as Nature's Sunshine Magnesium.
- A physical technique we use for headache relief in the clinic is to rub and press hard on the supraorbital ridge (the eyebrow bones). This will feel particulary tender if you have a headache but can provide quick pain relief without the need for drugs.
These findings have raised an interesting question for me. If regular consumption of painkillers is causing headaches, what about other medications that are taken regularly? Are they also responsible for reoccurring headaches?
If you are suffering from regular headaches and migraines and want to discuss an alternative to medication, contact us. We would be happy to talk through your individual case.