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Chew celery

Here's a quick home remedy for the next time you have a headache:  Chew celery.  Or carrots.  Or anything hard-and-healthy.

Seriously.  Exercising those jaw muscles can loosen things up and make you feel a whole lot better - depending on the type of headache you have.

Just don't eat too much celery.  It you do, you might find your jaw muscles getting sore, or getting tense, and you might end up with a headache the next day.  That's why people that chew a lot of gum can end up with jaw problems and headaches.

And here's a bonus tip:  If you try the first tip and discover that it works, it may be a sign you have problems with your jaw.  There could be damage to the joint, or you could be over-using your jaw muscles by chewing, or grinding your teeth at night.  Have a specialist check for damage, but even if there isn't actual damage you could have tired muscles from teeth grinding or clenching.  And that's a great recipe for headaches.
Thanks to Kerrie over at The Daily Headache for introducing me to the concept of myofascial release.  This type of alternative treatment is being used in various parts of the world to help fight migraine and headaches, and so I figured it was time I checked it out.

Myofascial release is like a massage, though practitioners throw up their hands in horror if you called it massage.  It's actually a very specific type of treatment, not just a back rub.

Fascia is the connective tissue between organs and muscles.  It's no secret that this tissue is involved in the headache equation.  Treating this fabric in the body has been studied from various fronts.

Myofascial release essentially stretches this fabric and the muscle - hence the term myofascial.  The therapist feels the muscles and tries to bring "release" to tight areas.  Sore areas can often be found just by the feel of the muscles and fascia, and the release can relax and begin to heal the problem.

This approach makes a lot of sense.  Many of us know that there are sore, tight spots that can increase pain.  These may be caused by injuries, or just poor posture.  Perhaps migraine attacks themselves - or any kind of pain - can cause a vicious circle of injury.  To relax and heal those areas is the goal of myofascial release.

There are a lot of success stories.  I'm not familiar with many specific trials, but this does seem to be in line with our understanding of the body.  If you've tried it, please share your comments with us.  Meanwhile, read some of Kerrie's latest thoughts.  Also, see the approach of one clinic in the UK when treating headache or migraine.
Since my last post regarding CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights), there has been a media frenzy on the topic.  My news reader has been inundated (flooded, taken over, buried in) with passionate stories about the energy-saving bulbs.  So I think it's time to step back, take a deep breath, and get some perspective.

First, here's what has happened.  The Migraine Action Association said that there was some "concern" that the new bulbs may trigger migraine (not cause - trigger).  So far so good - they're right, there is concern.  No arguing with that.

Naturally, the folks that sell the new bulbs had to defend themselves.  Most of them are saying that the main problems are with the older fluorescents (which flicker at a slower rate), or defective or worn-out bulbs (which obviously cause everyone a problem!).

They were also defending themselves against the charge that the flickering may cause seizures.  As far as I understand, this is very rare and again is usually more of a problem with old technology.

Then came the concern from skin experts (including the British Association of Dermatologists).  Apparently the bulbs could cause problems for people with some skin conditions (such as eczema) - just by being near a functioning bulb.  Then if the bulb breaks things get worse.  The UK Department for Environment warned that broken bulbs need to be disposed of very carefully (ie rubber gloves, special bags and special recycling bins).  The bulbs contain mercury, and they're telling us the room should actually be evacuated for 15 minutes if a bulb breaks.  Environmentalists are concerned that bulbs in landfills may give off enough mercury dust to cause serious health issues in the area.

This is a political issue.  It's an environmental issue.  It's a money issue.  It's a health issue.  People are passionate about it.  It's the perfect storm.  Expect trials by the people selling the lightbulb, then expect those not to be trusted (naturally), then expect new "independent" trials.  Meanwhile people for and against the new bulbs are calling the other side stupid, greedy or selfish.

So what does this frenzy mean to us people with migraine or tension headache?

Realize that the studies on this are still limited.  If you express concern, you should be taken seriously, but you may not yet have years of science to back you up.  Do what you feel will be best for your health in the mean time.

I stand by my suggestion that natural light and LED bulbs are often the better choice - both for health and the environment.  Your boss may not think this is realistic.  But do express your opinion, and find ways to compromise.  Find things that will be acceptable for everyone.  Don't get swept away by the hype on either side of the issue.
I appreciated this post on CFLs (no, not the Canadian Football League - Compact Fluorescent Lights) from Somebody Heal Me.  I think this is a topic that has snuck up on a lot of us, and this is a great reminder to think about it.

For years people with migraine or headache have complained about the bane of fluorescent lights.  The flicker of these bulbs (even when new) is what causes the problem.  If defective, the fluorescent bulbs may even trigger an epileptic attack.

Start looking up, and you'll realize that your bulbs are slowly being replaced with CFLs.  The reason is, of course, they're cost and energy efficient.  But are they quickly increasing health issues at work, school, and in the home?  If so, the efficiency may quickly be lost.

There is an alternative - LED lights.  There are downsides.  LEDs are expensive (in the short term), and they tend to be rather focused - meaning that it takes more to generally light an area (such as a large office room).  They also don't generate as much light.

But the upsides of LEDs are many.  First, they are more energy efficient.  Second, they are most cost efficient in the long run - lasting 6 times longer than CFLs.  Also, they are cool - excellent to replace those bright, hot lights in your bathroom or right over your desk.  And no more flicker!

Here's hoping that the technology of LEDs will continue to improve and the cost will continue to drop.

I hope to see more buildings taking advantage of natural light - skylights, windows and mirrors.  You can take advantage of it too - make yourself mobile and go somewhere where the light is better.

Meanwhile, don't be ashamed to request LEDs in your workplace.  Start saving to replace fluorescent lights in your home with LEDs in places where it will work.  Carry around sunglasses, if that helps.  Turn off the big, fluorescent overhead lights and use a focused LED for what you're doing.  There are other alternatives - being green doesn't have to mean being sick!
We've all seen those heating/cooling pads.  You can put them in the microwave or freezer, and cool/warm your head or neck or whatever you want.  The executive models even include essential oils or other goodies that can help alleviate a headache.

Last year blog came out with some great tips for making your own pad for a lot less than you'd pay at the store.  The beauty of this approach is that you can custom-make it.  You know what will be the most help to you - and you might even be able to afford to experiment a little.

I do recommend herbs and essential oils.  Here are some of the oils that are most used for headache.  Personally, I'm a fan of lavender.

Some people like to have two pads, so they can alternate hot and cold.  See what works best for you.  Here are the tips!  (Thanks to Lifehacker)
Blog Carnival
The very first edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival was posted today.  There are lots of entries I'm sure you'll enjoy reading.

For those that don't know, a blog carnival happens when a bunch of bloggers post on related topics, and those posts are all linked together in one place.  Here's the result:

Surviving the Holidays: Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival
The holiday season can be a fun time of year filled with high expectations, special events, family and friends and lots of great food.  But it is also a minefield for headache and migraine sufferers.  The first edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Carnival is filled with commiseration and ideas to help you cope.
So I hear we're supposed to live every day like it was Christmas.  Sometimes that seems like a good idea.  Other times - the tense times, the sick times, the frustrating times - it seems like a nightmare.  At times like this, one Christmas is more than enough.

Then again, maybe one Christmas isn't enough.  Here's the problem - too often we pin all our hopes and dreams on one day (this might apply the same to a wedding, graduation, a visit with someone...).  We have one Christmas dinner, one chance to go carolling, one visit with the kids, one - well, whatever special tradition you may have.  Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you know exactly what I'm talking about - those occasions that are so important you just have to be healthy for them!

Frankly, those occasions have got to go.

French philosopher Émile Chartier once said,"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have."  I think his words apply.

I must be a realist - single ideas scare me.  If they don't work, that's it - I'm trapped.

What's your one idea this holiday season?  Ask yourself, is there anything that I'm pinning all my hopes on?   Will I sink into despair if such-and-such doesn't happen, if I don't go there, if I don't see them?  The pressure is enough to make one sick.

No matter how hard we plan, no matter how careful we are, many of us know deep down that it may not happen.  That migraine attack might hit, that headache, or whatever it is that yanks us out of circulation.  Let's start with that cold fact and move on.

This holiday season, let's resist the urge to want everything to be perfect, and especially to want a certain time to be perfect.  Instead, let's plan for a few.  Let's accept the fact that some will work, some will not.  Let's enjoy the next few weeks moment by moment.

Why does there have to be one huge special meal?  Couldn't there be two meals to look forward to - meals that are a little simpler, a little less work?

You see, I'm not necessarily suggesting you add more to your schedule - I'm just suggesting you spread it out a little.

Why not take only 15 minutes today to enjoy some music?  Why not plan to call a friend sometime this week that you haven't seen for a couple of years?  Why not enjoy some special, surprise moments as they come along?

I realize we're not going to be able to avoid all those one-idea times.  But maybe if we rebel, just a little, against the one-day mentality, and demand more special times as we go along, it may just make a more joyful season.  It might take off just a little of the pressure.  And no matter when we're sick or well, we may find there are some memories worth having.

One idea - not good.

This post is part of the Headache and Migraine Disease Blog Carnival, hosted by Somebody Heal Me.
Always on the lookout for treatments for headaches, I recently came across ear candling.  But keep reading before you start looking for a practitioner in your area.

Ear candling, also known as thermal-auricular therapy , or coning, is supposed to clean out impurities and wax from your ear.  The claim is that the procedure can help with headache, migraine, sinus pain, and a host of other problems.  Though it's often promoted as a physical form of alternative medicine, there is also a spiritual emphasis - the belief that the candles can somehow influence the soul or "auras" of the body.  Supposedly, it is an ancient practice.  Sometimes called "Hopi candles", the claim is that the Hopi peoples of Arizona traditionally practiced ear candling.

Ear candling
The treatment involves using a hollow cone or candle, and placing it over the ear (with ample protection against dripping wax).  Supposedly the hollow candle works like a "chimney", sucking out impurities.

When a few people complained that they had been burned by wax, the criticism of the practice started to rise.  Wax on the eardrum is, of course, dangerous and can take a lot of work to remove.

Then the Hopi people were contacted, and claimed they never have done any ear candling.  Then the "impurities" were analyzed.  Turns out it wasn't wax or toxins from the body, but byproducts of the candle itself!

In fact, since the ear canal is cut off from other parts of the body (such as sinuses), no suction can remove anything but wax - in fact, it can't even remove wax, which is sticky and would need a tremendous vacuum before it would come out (such a vacuum would rupture your eardrum!)

So if ear candling doesn't really remove any impurities, what is it doing?  Somewhat cornered, one practitioner said, "It doesn't matter whether it's being removed or not because you're going to get some harmony through the changing of the energies and perhaps that's all that's needed."

In the USA, no ear candles can be sold for medicinal use.  In Canada, ear candles cannot be legally sold.  In a letter to anyone selling the product, Health Canada wrote:  Ear candles represent a potential health hazard to users ... There is no valid scientific data available to support any therapeutic benefits associated with the use of ear candles.

So if you're looking for a warm feeling and a nice massage, perhaps you should use the candles for ambiance, instead of letting someone stick them in your ears.

Ear candling photo courtesy of iBjorn
The next time someone calls you "thick headed", don't be so offended.  New research says that migraine sufferers may be a little thick headed.

Ok, stop throwing things at your computer screen - let's get serious.  New research is showing that the somatosensory cortex (SSC) area of the brain seems to be thicker in migrainuers.  The study out of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and is being published today in the online edition of Neurology.

Though this story is being plastered all over the news this morning, it really doesn't tell us a lot.  There is a lot of evidence that the brains of migraine patients are different.  Yes, this may lead us to more specific answers.  But at this point we don't even know if the SSC is thicker because of migraine attacks (most of these patients had been having severe attacks since childhood), or if the migraine attacks are a result of the thickened SSC.

Now researchers are planning a larger study to find out.  The results may help identify people who are predisposed to migraine, or help develop more treatments.

Whatever is discovered, this is more evidence at least of a physical problem.  Yes, there are still people that think migraine is an imagined illness.  However, it will be a while before this line of research really tells us much that will be a help.

But that's the nature of good research, isn't it?  While news media tries to find some instant significance in the latest study, the rest of us will keep an eye on it, and learn patience.

To learn more, read the official press release, or check out this helpful article from the BBC - Migraine brains 'are different'.
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