I have people ask me all the time when they know someone with headaches if they can talk to me. Absolutely! But remember, everyone’s journey is different. One thing that is similar is the fact that headaches that don’t go away are NOT normal. Many of us (I did for YEARS) ignore this fact. Daily headaches are defined as a migraine disorder, and it can wreck your world.
The chronic inflammation can lead to many things including diseases and structural issues.
Chronic stress and inflammation puts your body in “fight or flight” mode constantly. Being in this sympathetic fight or flight mode doesn’t allow our gut to work properly, which leads to a whole slew of issues including food intolerances and a leaky gut. Our gut is our second brain; if you have headaches, your actual brain is already struggling, so ignoring the pain is not the answer.
Figuring out what is causing the pain is a hard puzzle to crack. For myself and others it’s a combination of things. I’m going to post below a list of things I’ve tried and what I’ve found to be most helpful. My headaches are still being figured out, but what I have discovered is that my chronic pain led to multiple body systems compensating for years, a clenching and tightening of my muscles (which led to a list of issues), and a leaky gut from chronic medication use and chronic inflammation in my body. These are not diagnoses that western medical doctors commonly talk about or educate their patients on. This is what I learned is wrong with me, and actually many chronic pain sufferers are in the same boat. After all the specialists I’ve seen, I’ve discovered the importance and need for individualized patient care. Chronic pain is unique to each sufferer, and most of us are not textbook. In the end, Holistic Health providers were my saving grace. I hope my journey can help put you towards the path of healing❣️
* These are all my personal experiences, and I always recommend talking to a trained medical professional first *
Below are my lists from my Holistic Journey followed by my Western Medicine journey. My holistic route has provided me with the greatest relief over any medicine thus far and is why I went back to school ❤️
- Naturopathic Doctors: A great place for someone who wants to go the Holistic route and feel like they have tried everything. I spent a TON of money here and it got me to where I am now. They do a lot of validating tests and supplements and if I knew what an NTP was at the time, I could have saved a lot of money and come to the same conclusions without all the tests and supplements. They do find and treat the root cause. This cause may not be obvious, and probably isn’t if you landed here. They analyze your blood work in a different way than a normal doctor would while testing additional levels I’ve never had tested prior. You will be guided on what herbs, supplements, and tinctures to take to heal your body. These doctors are well educated and treat much more than pain. A lot of them focus on your gut which is extremely important for pain, digestive issues, and depression/anxiety!
- Diet Eliminations: Don’t get me wrong — This is hard, but if it fixes your pain, it’s worth it all. I started with the common triggers: nitrates, wine, chocolate, artificial sugars and coloring, and MSG (which is in everything; see all the names it hides under and my favorite migraine diet that has led me to a lot of my triggers here). Food tests are great but NOT the FIRST place to start. You can ask about getting your iGg food antibodies tested. This tests your body’s inflammatory response to certain foods and will make it easier to know what to eliminate. Unfortunately, if you are chronically inflamed, most of the food you eat will show up (healthy or not).
- Herbal Medicines: Consult your doctor before. A lot of medications have an unknown reaction to herbs, so you need to be cautious. Herbs are medications 😊. I love herbal teas (good homemade ones without the sugars and preservatives).
- I’ve searched online for a quick and reputable list of the popular ones that are safer to use here.
- Here is my stock pile list of herbs for pain and headaches: Magnesium, Feverew, Butterbur, CoQ10 Enzyme, White Willow Bark, Ginko Biloba, Ashwaghasha, Dong quai, Ginger, Lavender, Rosemary and Peppermint. Remember to consult a professional prior to using herbs; there are a lot of drug interactions here and interactions with pregnancy.
- I am able to recommend supplements to you, but please check with your doctor if you are on other medications. I have a few that have really helped me! Liquid omegas and a good probiotic can go a long way with healing your gut and inflammation. Click on the supplement link on the drop down menu to check out the websites for a 10% discount.
- Chiropractor: Now I will say- your minerals need to be balanced for adjustments to HOLD! Most can help with jaw pain, neck pain, and headaches, but more importantly, your posture which can cause a cascading effect of pain up or down your body. I have learned that this should be a “every now and again” treatment. Your ligaments get used to being stretched and the vertebrae essentially pop into place with your adjustment. The more you go, the more mobile they become, actually allowing them to be put out of place easier. Look into fixing your posture alongside a chiropractor adjustment here and there.
- Massage Therapist: This one is one of my favorite therapies, but this is out of pocket and can get expensive. I love my Holistic one that also practices Reiki. My knots used to return in hours because I’ve been tight for so many years, but with help from physical therapy, this is a great monthly treat! If you can’t splurge on this, at least look into self-massaging. Massage helps move our lymphatic system which ultimately allows us to move toxins through and out of our body, making us able to strengthen our immune system and fight that chronic inflammation!
- Acupuncture: This is my favorite 😍. This helps your mind, body, and soul heal. My headaches are too complex to be fixed by acupuncture, but this is one of the few things that give me temporary relief, and they can help with multiple issues at once! If you are local to the Harford County area in Maryland, check out my acupuncturist Chris. He takes insurance!
- Float Therapy: This is basically a pool with a ton of magnesium salts. Magnesium deficiency can cause a lot of muscle issues and headaches. I had a hard time meditating and relaxing that long, and the water is body temp (not a nice hot soaking experience as I expected), but my muscles felt amazing after!
- Medical Hypnosis: Anxiety and habits play a big part in pain. Mindset is honestly everything. If you don’t believe in yourself and the ability to heal, you are not going to be able to heal. If you don’t already, look into meditating. I use the Daily Calm app. It isn’t easy at first, but if you consistently meditate, your mindset will shift and I bet you will start healing.
List of Western Medical specialists I’ve seen over the years:
- Neurologist: I saw over five. They each gave me medication after medication with side affects. It is important to rule out autoimmune and structural causes, but ask about diets also! Chronic headaches identify as a headache pain that doesn’t go away with over-the-counter medications, or if you suffer more than 15 episodes a month, you should see a neurologist. Let’s have a side chat about Tylenol and Motrin: If it’s not working, stop taking it. You should not be taking these medications more than 3x a week. I used to take it daily, just in the hope that it could help. I now only take these medications when I really need them and for reasons not related to headaches. These medications can be detrimental to your body if used and abused, and this is a common thing done since we all have access to it.
- There are different “sub-types” of neurologists. I’ve seen Headache Specialists, Muscular Sclerosis specialists, Autonomic Nervous System specialists, and probably tons more I can’t think of, but start with a general one that specializes in headaches and/or concussions. They will begin with imaging of your head/neck/brain to check for any structural abnormalities, begin blood work to look for deficiencies, and begin providing medications for you to trial.
- Medication Usage: My gut had secretly became “leaky” from all the years of trialing different medications in the hope that one would help the pain. This caused serious inflammation in my body leading to a whole list of food intolerance and environmental sensitivities. If a problem is not identified in the initial stages of testing, I suggest you try a elimination diet, massages, or acupuncture before the long-term medication route. You are probably desperate; I was and that’s why I took medications for years and underwent years of injections. In the long run, it made me worse. Some would help briefly but were masking the symptoms, not fixing the root cause of the problem. This is ultimately your decision, but there’s my soapbox about medication use.
- ENT: I had two sinus surgeries before realizing my facial pain was actually jaw pain and migraines. (This is apparently super common)! Prior to these surgeries, I underwent multiple rounds of antibiotics with no pain relief. These were essentially unneeded and contributed to a leaky gut and chronic inflammation. So again, even though you’re desperate to feel better, be wary of unnecessary medication usages, ESPECIALLY antibiotics.
- Dentist: (Yes they make special dentists!) I saw a trained TMJ/TMD Dentist. If you wake up with jaw pain and headaches, start off with a night guard that you make yourself. Then if that’s not helping, seek out your normal dentist before spending the money and time on these specialists. While they’re certainly helpful, you will save a lot of money and time if you can avoid these visits. I also believe the root cause of the clenching went away when my diet changed. Remember: dental stuff is not covered very well for adults (and a lot of time, not at all) the more specialized you get.
- Physical Therapy: There are so many specialties here. I was very surprised when I learned this. I’ve had a ton of PT over the years. I see one who specializes in craniosacral therapy for headaches (this one has been the most successful), one specializing in TMJ/TMD, and a standard PT. Your posture has a ton of impact on your neck and shoulder strain, as well as jaw pain. It may seem “too simple” but it’s amazing how much it can help. I recommend starting here over the medication route. My chronic muscle clenching led me to having a rib removal due to the development of some serious scar tissue from compensating with bad posture from chronic pain, so again don’t ignore the pain because that surgery was no joke. A lot of Physical therapists are getting trained in dry needling — not my jam but the science behind it can help with chronic muscle knots and tightness. Again, you have to find the root cause and help increase your parasympathetic nervous system or your muscles will just go back to the tight position.
- Cardiologists: A lot of people with chronic headaches have either low or high blood pressure; mine is low. Nutritional deficiencies can also give you heart arrhythmias and symptoms of cardiac issues and headaches! I was diagnosed with something called POTS that leaves me dizzy and lightheaded often. This is a common diagnosis for chronic pain sufferers because your body is fighting that inflammation I keep bringing up, constantly, so your body becomes more sensitive in general. Yet another reason why you should not ignore your pain.
- Rheumatologist: Autoimmune disorders are important to be ruled out, as a lot have odd symptoms that migraine suffers get. Migraines act as an autoimmune issue and a lot of people have a hard time figuring out what came first. If it’s truly autoimmune, the medications should make you feel better and not worse as I’ve experienced on these medications. At the end of my journey I discovered something called Epstein Bar Virus (Mono) and if your body is in a chronically inflamed and sensitive state, your body may start to attack itself like an autoimmune disorder would. This results in more chronic inflammation as well as thyroid and adrenal issues. This can be fixed with some diet and supplement changes, but if you don’t discover it, you may be put on more medications, which will just make your gut worse and in turn, the inflammation. Crazy how it all keeps becoming connected to chronic inflammation and gut health, right?
- Optometrist: Having eye strain and bad vision is an obvious cause for headaches and should be addressed. When I first had floaters before realizing I had migraines, I saw a few specialists but I cannot remember their subtitles. One diagnosed me with white blood cells (your body’s defense cells to fight infection) in my eyes from a reaction to the influenza shot. This is apparently common once your body starts fighting the inflammation like an autoimmune disorder and shows your body is in a inflammatory state and crying for help!
- Vascular Specialist: This specialty is the surgeon that treated my Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which resulted in two rib removals. If you ever see my posts and believe you have this disorder that caused numbness, tingling, and temperature changes among other issues, start with chiropractic care (they are actually who diagnosed me), Physical Therapy, and acupuncture. The surgery is no joke and should really be your last option. My nerve damage was becoming so bad that it would not have been reversible. I ignored this pain for a long time because my headaches were causing more pain than my hands and neck….another point on why not to ignore your pain.
- Psychologist: Pain can cause an unbelievable amount of mental struggle. Anxiety and depression definitely accompany chronic pain. Mine was never changed with medication and I was determined the pain was the cause. I gained some coping skills from yoga and breathing. I’m grateful I don’t need to rely on medications but it’s okay if you do. We are all different people, on our own journeys. Side note: I am bringing it back to gut health. Probiotics and fixing my diet helped me a lot. The gut regulates Serotonin dramatically, which is what most antidepressants manage.
- Pain Management: These doctors are great if you find yourself being hooked on something and you want other options. They do more than prescribe narcotics; I mean, yes, they do that too but mine actually recommended Calm magnesium and medical hypnotism.
Wow! That was a lot of doctors, and I’m certain I forgot a few. Not all are friendly and with some, you spend months on their waiting list for an appointment you felt was useless. And it certainly may have been, but it was all a part of your healing, so nothing is wasted. I’m hoping my journey and experience with them all helps you match what you are going through and what ones you need to avoid. Please feel free to comment or privately message me any questions.
I couldn’t get by in life without mediation, yoga, essential oils (my fav is doterra), and my stockpile of herbs. When I find the combination of medical doctors and Holistic treatments that work the best, I’ll be sure to share! Keep fighting warriors ✌🏻❤️.