Headaches afflict almost at some time or the other. Most headaches are functional, caused by temporary upsets and are not related to any organic changes in the brain. A headache is often nature’s warning that something is wrong somewhere in the body. The actual pain, however, arises from irritation to nerve endings in the shoulder, neck and scalp muscles and also in the smooth muscles encircling the blood vessels which serve these areas.
Headaches can be a problem in some children in the rather turbulent, teenage years. While there can be outlined definite physical causes for a headache, it is more often a sign of emotional strain. However, before attributing emotioncal cause for the headache, all possibilities of physical illness like meningitis, brain turmor etc. must be eliminated.
A headache can be a symptom of an acute illness, such as infectious fevers or common cold. A headache can also persist following a cold, if the sinuses have been infected. But, if this is the cause of the problem, there will be other signs and symptoms such as a blocked nose or tenderness over the sinuses.
A headache that becomes worse, or is associated with vomiting, during the course of the infective illness must always receive prompt medical attention. It is possible that the infection could have spread to the outer coverings of the brain, causing meningitis or encephalitis.
Some children also suffer from migraine headaches. But there is a possibility of wrong diagnosis, as stress may be the true cause. Classically, migraine is a severe one-sided headache associated with nausea or vomiting, specific visual symptoms and giddiness. Symptoms vary from person to person but, before a diagnosis is made, one or more of the classic symptoms should be present. Migraine often runs in families.
Treatment The best remedy to prevent headaches is to build up physical resistance through proper nutrition, exercise and constructive thinking. As a first step, the patient shouold subsist for two or three days on citrus fruit juices, diluted with water. The juices may be taken six times daily. By taking the load off the digestion, the patient will at once save nervous energy which can be utilised for more important purposes. The blood and lymph will also be relieved of a great burden. After a short period on fruit juics, the diet should be fixed in such a way as to put the least possible strain on the digestion. Breakfast may consist of fruits,both fresh and dried. Lunch may consist largely of protein foods. Starchy foods such as whole wheat bread, cereals, rice, potatoes may be taken at dinner along with raw vegetable salads. Spices, condiments, pickles, sour buttermilk and oily foodstuffs should be avoided. Drinking a glass of water (warm water in winer and cool water in summer), mixed with a teaspoon of honey first thing in the morning, is useful in headaches.
Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of various types of headaches. Lemon (bara nimbu) is useful in bilious headache. The juice of two or three slices of this fruit should be squeezed in a cup of warm water and consumed by the patient for treating this condition. The crust of lemon, which is generally thrown away, has been found useful in headaches caused by heat. Lemon crusts should be pounded into a fine paste in a mortar and applied on the forehead. It will bring relief. Applying yellow rind of lemon, newly pared off, to each temple will also give relief.
Apples are valuable in treating all types of headaches. A ripe apple, after removing the upper rind and the inner hard portion, should be taken with a little salt every morning for about a week.
Cinnamon (dalchini) is useful in headaches caused by exposure to cold air. A thin paste of this spice should be prepared by mixing it with water and should be applied over the temples and forehead to obtain relief.
The flowers of henna (mehndi) have been found valuable in headaches caused by heat. A plaster of the flowers should be prepared by rubbing in vinegar and applied over the forehead. It will soon bring relief.
Hot foot baths have proved valuable in chronic headaches. The patient should keep his legs in a bucket filled with hot water at a temperature of 40o C to 45o C for 15 minutes every night before retiring. This will give relief.
Copious drinking of water will be beneficial in the treatment of headaches. Certain water applications help relieve headaches. These include taking enema with water temperature at 98.6o F, a wet throat pack, frequent applications of towels wrung out from very hot water to the back of the neck. A cold compress at 40o to 60o F applied to the head and face or an alternate spinalcompress. Hot fomentations over the abdominal region just before retiring relieve headaches due to stomach and a liver upset. The procedure for various water applications have been explained in the Appendix.
Certain yogic practices are also beneficial in the treatments of headahes and older children should be encouraged to undertake them. These include yogic kriyas like jalneti and kunjal, pranayamas like anuloma-viloma, shitali and sitkari and asanas such as uttanpadasana, sarvangasana, paschimottanasana, halasana and shavasana.