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Migraine and Ayurveda

Migraine headache is one of the most severe types of headaches. A large percentage of patients fail pharmaceutical treatments for acute migraine attacks or preventing measures. Migraine sufferers can benefit from alternative therapies (biofeedback, acupuncture, supplements, massage therapy, relaxation therapy) if they do not respond to conventional therapy, develop unwanted side effects or are reluctant to take allopathic medications. Unlike the Western allopathic approach of one-size-fits-all, Ayurveda treats the root cause of imbalances by addressing each patient’s unique constitution and illness. Headaches in Ayurveda are classified based on doshic involvement (body-mind-spirit). Migraine is mostly a vata-pitta dosha or tridoshic condition but it can also be triggered by any one of the individual doshas. Ayurveda believes in treating the disease at its root cause from within. Therefore, treatments focus on balancing the vitiated dosha (s) in the digestive and nervous systems. This can be achieved by avoiding triggers and prescribing doshic-specific diet, stress management (meditation, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, yoga and mantra), herbal formulas, lifestyle modification, panchakarma and other holistic modalities to create a balanced physiology. This state of complete balanced in healing the body and mind, can allow the illness to resolve and symptoms disappear.

Lifestyle modification

Migraine (Ardhavabhedaka) and other type headaches can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating routine and working habits and avoiding migraine triggers can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Some of these healthy lifestyle include:

A. Proper morning routine: Daily elimination to empty bowels, inspecting tongue for any coating, brushing/flossing teeth, massaging gums, cleaning nasal passages (neti pot), self-abhyanga (daily oil application on skin and massaging), massaging ears with oils, practicing meditation, washing eyes at least once per week.

B. Proper sleep routine: Proper sleep pattern means that one must go to bed and rise according to the rhythms of nature. Vata nature people must wake up with the sun and pitta wake up half an hour before the sun and kapha one hour before the sun. It is suggested that one go to bed by 10pm for all constitutions.

C. Follow healthy eating guidelines: There are 8 factors that affect the quality of food (nature, processing, combination, quantity, habitat, time, rules of intake, responsibility). The general guidelines for healthy eating include eating food in the proper place, preparing food with loving hands in a loving way, saying Grace before meals, eating without distraction, eating with a proper frame of mine, chewing until it is an even consistency, making sure food is warm oily/moist. Food should not have opposite potencies. Drink only a small amount of fluids with meals and avoid cold drinks. Eat food with confidence and eat until 75% full. Always take some time to rest after meals and allow 3 hours between meals for foods to get digested.

D. Stress (Sahasa) management: One must both avoid factors that induce stress and vitiate doshas and also learn coping mechanisms for life stressors. Stress inducing factors can include: 1) Physical stress such as strenuous exercise, fasting, exhaustion, improper body postures, injury/trauma. 2) Psychological stress such as anger, anxiety/nervousness, excitement, confusion, grief, fear. 3) Environmental stress like high altitudes and prolonged exposure to the sun or heat. Stress avoidance is the best approach. However, some rasayana herbs which improve longevity along with physical/mental strength and immunity can be helpful.

Several rasayana herbs show antioxidant, immuno modulator, hepato protective, antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. A few example of such herbs are shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa), centella (Centella asiatica), shankha pushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), amla (Emblica officinalis), long pepper (Piper longum), kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).

Ayurveda massages

Ayurveda massages can provide release from headaches by taking care of trigger points( Marmas). Ayurveda oils provides deep relaxation and calm down the VATA.

Ayurveda massages can promote a sense of calm, which is important if you have migraines. Several studies show massage can provide :

  • Greater relaxation

  • Improved sleep

  • Lower stress levels

  • Decreased pain

Self-Massage Techniques for Headache Relief

  1. Drink plenty of water before and after doing these protocols.

  2. Press your thumbs firmly towards each other and into the bridge of your nose, just underneath your forehead. Hold for 10 seconds, breath deeply. Repeat 5 times.

  3. Take your thumbs and place them just underneath your forehead, with the pads very close to the bridge of your nose. But this time you will press firmly upwards towards your forehead. Take deep breaths while holding this pressure for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

  4. Take both hands and pinch your eyebrows holding for 10 seconds. Breathe deeply. Repeat 5 times.

  5. Press your middle three fingers firmly into the sides of your temple and add a slight circular motion for 10 seconds using steady pressure. Breathe deeply. Repeat 5 times.

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