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A Holistic Approach to Migraines

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The Sandpoint Wellness Council offers tips to beat a common pain in the... head

Our first topic focuses on migraine headaches. According to Ruth Werner, author of A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, 28 million people experience migraines. This leads to not only lost wages but to high medical expenses each year. Women tend to suffer more than men, and causes are varied, including genetic factors, personal lifestyle choices and environmental influences.

Physiologically, migraines can occur from a narrowing of blood vessels in the brain called vasoconstriction. This increases blood pressure within the vessels. This is then followed by an expansion of the blood vessels called vasodilation. With this expansion comes the intense pain of a migraine headache.

Trying to uncover the causes of migraines remains a prominent topic among many professionals. As we accept the bio-individuality of ourselves, we also recognize that a prescription of “one size fits all” does not always effectively deal with the possible triggers that cause migraines. Werner suggests many possible triggers, such as magnesium deficiency (which allows for muscle relaxation), consumption of certain kinds of foods, including red wine, cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea (all our favorite things!), MSG, and alcohol. As well, Werner relates that stress and hormonal shifts may also be contributing factors.

As complementary health practitioners, we see people with a variety of symptoms, and each of us has learned to address these symptoms within our scopes of practice. Following are the educated and professional protocols Sandpoint Wellness Council members utilize to bring comfort and relief for the expressions of migraine headaches for our valued clients. Your review of these multifaceted options may provide you insight for what may work for your specific needs.

CranioSacral Therapy- Ilani Kopiecki, CMT In CranioSacral Therapy we use several different release techniques to help with migraine headaches. We release the vertebrae in the neck and upper thoracic area to make sure blood flow to the head is running smoothly. We adjust the sacrum and lower back to ensure release throughout the spine. We also release the occiput, temporal, frontal, and parietal bones in the head so that the dural tissue throughout the cranium is open and pliable. Sometimes the jaw and the TMJ areas must be released as well to alleviate pressure in the neck and head. It is also important to counsel the client on diet, lifestyle, and water intake.

Health and Fitness- Kristine Battey MSPT, ATC, CSCS, HLC, Exercise can be an excellent tool for fighting off a migraine and may also help the person to relax when they have a migraine. Light cardiovascular exercise followed by stretching and deep, relaxing breathing can relax the body and the muscles in the neck and shoulders that lead to tension related migraine headaches. The use of a foam roller or therapeutic ball for stretching can help the spinal muscles to relax. During acute migraine, I instruct clients to lie down in a quiet room, close their eyes and do gentle stretches along with relaxing, deep breathing techniques. This may relieve the migraine or at least help it to be more tolerable.

Another important part of preventing migraines is related to the person’s diet. It is important for a migraine sufferer to clear their diet of toxins and eat high quality, nutrient dense food. I assess my client’s physiological load which is the sum total of all stressors acting on their body: what they eat, when they eat, stress, sleep, their digestive system, and their detoxification system. I also assess what metabolic type they are and guide them to make quality food choices according to what types of food their particular nutritional type would benefit from most. Eating an organic, whole food diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and quality sources of grass-fed, organic meat are important for optimal health and may help to decrease the incidence or severity of migraines.

Massage - Krystle Shapiro, LMT Oftentimes with severe headaches, the last thing someone wants is to be touched! Depending on the severity of the headache, and/or the type of headache, i.e. cluster, migraine, sinus, tension, or chemical headaches, massage can provide a reduction of stress that may be a contributing factor. Manual lymph drainage, a specialized massage for moving lymph fluids, may be especially helpful in releasing head congestion contributing to migraine symptoms.

Biofeedback- Robin Mize CBS. There are a number of alternative or complementary treatment options available for migraine relief. One of these options for migraines is biofeedback. Biofeedback is a technique that involves reducing the effects of pain and stress on your body by learning how your body reacts to pain and stress. Biofeedback does this through monitoring instruments that can detect and display internal bodily function. This is where the EPFX system comes in. This system picks up on those individual stressors and retrains through the subconscious mind. The practitioner is able to share with the client what those stressors may be, and then the client can use that information for lifestyle changes. This can give people better control over body function indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, muscle tension, and brain waves. Biofeedback is a type of complementary and alternative medicine known as mind-body therapy. Biofeedback for migraines may be coupled with relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy teaches a variety of relaxation strategies for reducing tension and stress throughout the body. I have been able to assist many of my clients that suffer with migraine headaches.

Rolfing- Owen Marcus As a Rolfer over that past 28 years, I have had many referrals for migraines. Every one of these clients had an usually tense upper back, neck and head. Neurologists, who were clients of mine and who sent me some of these clients, also saw a consistent pattern of tension with migraine patients. Chronic soft tissue tension is often a reflection of not just a higher stress level, but can come from never being taught how to really relax. Once the body begins to relax, the mind learns to relax. Together the client has greater resiliency to stress, thereby less vulnerable to headaches. Once the soft tissue tension begins to release from the upper body, enviably the migraines would reduce or completely disappear.

Reflexology, Herbology- Penny Waters When a client comes to me seeking relief from migraine headaches I immediately anticipate that I will find imbalance in the liver and/or pituitary gland/brain/spine and nerve reflexes. This is because migraines are associated with digestive difficulties, especially congestion in the liver, tension from stress, which always affects the function of the pituitary gland (and, in turn, all glands), nervous system and constricting and expanding blood vessels in the brain.

We begin with a thorough written and verbal consultation about lifestyle, stresses, foods eaten, exercise habits, and so on. I offer hope and an outline of the approach we will take together to facilitate wellness.

Despite my initial suspicions, I always let the feet tell me what is out of balance in the body. My client is invited to ‘put their feet up’ and then I go to work giving a full reflexology session on the feet, making notes as to areas of tension, congestion and inflammation. Reflexology is revealing as it tells me which organs or glands are out of balance and needing healing that promote proper function of the body. Reflexology helps the migraine headaches decrease in frequency and intensity and also is profoundly relaxing to the body, mind and spirit relieving stress and the resulting impact on wellness. When the reflexology is complete, I discuss with my client the organs, glands and body parts that are out of balance and the impact of reflexology on promoting wellness. I generally recommend reflexology treatments once a week for 4 to 6 weeks for a transformation in the condition. Individual programs, however, will be made according to the needs of the client. I also recommend herbs that will help bring about and speed up wellness in the affected areas and relieve the migraine headaches. Generally one herbal formula in a tea or tincture is all that I recommend at any one time. At this point I will discuss foods that are commonly associated with triggering migraines and make suggestions for food changes that will help prevent migraines. The goal is to assess the whole person and the life of this person to establish patterns that are leading to this painful condition and to choose a new path leading to well-being and joyful living.

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Sandpoint Wellness Counci Sandpoint Wellness Counci The Sandpoint Wellness Council is an association of independent, complementary wellness practitioners located in Sandpoint dedicated to holistic health care. Pictured are: Owen Marcus, Penny Waters, Robin and Layman Mize, Ilani Kopiecki, Krystle Shapiro and Mario Roxas

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