Headache Awareness Week is set to run from today until next Saturday. Research carried out by Nurofen showed that 3.2m people in Ireland get headaches regularly. Am I the only one, who thinks Nurofen sponsoring headache awareness week is a joke? Do you not think there is a conflict of interest here? Would anyone believe their research on the numbers affected by headaches? By sponsoring headache awareness week, they are trying to normalise the use of nurofen products for the treatment of headaches. Pain killers are addictive and have many serious side effects.
Risks of painkillers
Over-the-counter painkillers taken by millions of people can become addictive within just three days, the Government’s watchdog last night warned. New restrictions will now be applied to medicines containing codeine, including Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine, that are sold over the counter and are routinely used to ease headaches, back problems and period pain.
Official figures show that more than 30,000 consumers have become addicted to the drugs, many accidentally, with women most at risk of developing an addiction. Growing concern about the spread of what experts describe as a ‘hidden addiction’, has led the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to announce a series of measures to counter the problem. Packets size will be limited to just 32 tablets with larger packs available only by prescription in a bid to curb misuse. New advertising will no longer state that the drugs are remedies for coughs and colds and it will be targeted towards acute and moderate pain. The MHRA, yesterday (thurs) issued the updated advice for those taking medicines containing codeine and dihydrocodeine, which are opiates related to heroin and morphine. There have been fears of a growing market in ‘bulk buying’ of these medicines on the internet with many patients and doctors totally unaware of the dangers. A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Misuse warned the 32,000 addicted were just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The MPs recommended these painkillers be sold in smaller packets of just 18 tablets after hearing evidence from an online support group fielding 16,000 requests for help for addiction every year.
Like all medicines, painkillers can have side effects:
- Aspirin and ibuprofen, if taken in high doses or for long lengths of time, can irritate the gut causing bleeding and ulcers, or damage the kidneys
- Paracetamol, if taken in a very high dose, damages the liver
- All painkillers, even simple ones, carry the risk of inducing pain such as headaches and back pain
- Opiate painkillers may cause withdrawal symptoms such as shivers, aching joints, agitation, anxiety, depression, constipation, paranoia and other physical and psychological side effects
However, the greatest risk from opiates is addiction. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Feeling that you need to take the drugs in order to feel ‘normal’
- Finding you need to take higher doses to achieve the same effect
- Taking them even though you know that they are doing harm
- Adopting devious or even illegal means to get more painkillers
It’s estimated that painkiller addiction affects at least 100,000 people in the UK. However, there is some controversy about how great the risk of addiction is when someone takes opiates for pain rather than as a street drug.
Sick days as a result of headaches cost employers nearly €100 million annually according to a survey carried out by Nurofen as part of Headache Awareness Week. HEADACHES CAN LEAD TO OVER 890,000 missed days of work every year, costing employers nearly €100 million according to a survey carried out as part of Headache Awareness Week. The capitalist system needs pharmaceutical companies to provide quick solutions for workers to return to work or remain in work. So for Nurofen to sponsor headache awareness week provides a platform to normalise the consumption of pain killers, makes them look like the good guys and provides the state with way to reduce the loss of productivity that comes with sick leave. Why don’t the government have a national hydration awareness week? This would have so many other benefits as well as reducing the number of people affected by headaches. Good hydration also reduces feelings of depression.
Headaches are one of the most common ailments people experience. It is estimated that 50 million people seek medical attention for headaches every year in the US alone and over $500,000,000 is spent annually on headache medicine. The two most common types of headache are tension headaches which are caused by muscular tension and headaches caused by a constriction of blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. A few of the common causes are stress, poor posture, caffeine, eye strain, low blood sugar, allergies, sinusitis, and tiredness. There are also more severe problems that can cause headaches, but they are far less common. It is estimated that 90% of all headaches are tension headaches.
Get rid of Headaches Holistically
The first thing to do if you suffer from headaches or migraines (and frankly, even if you don`t) is to cut out monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, various preservatives, artificial sweeteners and anything that is created by man. These foods make the body work hard and overheat, which can easily bring on a headache. Aspartame has been linked to headaches and migraines, so watch out for foods that claim to be sugar free.
Processed foods are virtually dead in terms of their life energies, so they offer the body nothing but work and a headache (or various other illnesses.) Studies show that some of the best foods for headaches include radishes, onions, celery and cilantro. These foods cool the body, taking the headache with it.
Next on list is to drink more water. Chronic dehydration is perhaps the greatest cause of headaches, as well as many other diseases. Coffee, black tea and fizzy drinks are not water, and in fact dehydrate the body and cause more harm than good. Pure water helps the kidneys to function properly and detoxifies the body, which prevents and eases headaches. Everyone should drink at least two litres of water per day. Some say the body drought is in fact the greatest stress the body can endure.
Many people claim that their headache comes on when they skip a meal. Balanced blood sugar levels are important for preventing imbalances that lead to headaches. Ensure that you eat 3 meals per day and eat a proper breakfast. Nuts, seeds, pulses, fruits and veggies are good foods for maintaining balance, while sugar, bread and processed foods throw the blood sugar out of whack.
While you can`t control your environment completely, certain smells are known to trigger headaches and migraines. Perfumes, cologne, cigarette smoke and chemicals are well known culprits. Using natural, organic shampoos, conditioners and creams will help to minimize your risk of a chemical induced headache. If you wear perfumes or cologne, switch to essential oils for a lovely scent, and ask the people you live with to kindly do the same. Switch to natural cleaning products, and altogether avoid first and second hand cigarette smoke.
If you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, you may avoid exercise for fear it will make your headache worse. However, studies show that just the opposite is true. A recent Swedish study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain showed that regular activity can reduce the number of migraines, the intensity of migraines and the need for pain medication. This may be down to the fact that the muscles are being stretched and loosened, or it may be down to stress release. Either way, it seems to make a huge difference.
And there is no doubt that one of the greatest causes of headaches is stress. All of us have experienced some type of headache when under pressure, and people who get regular headaches tend to be stress cases. Yoga, 20- 30 minutes of meditation, and deep abdominal breathing are all great ways to release stress and alleviate a headache. Even if they don`t get rid of the headache completely, they allow one to be calmer and not react to the headache so strongly, which makes it worse.
There are people who find that if they take the herb feverfew the second they feel a headache coming on, they can hold it at bay. Other herbs that seem to work wonders for some people are ginger and Gingko Biloba. Ginkgo biloba reduces the formation of a substance known as platelet-activating factor which may contribute to migraines. Ginger reduces inflammation and is also excellent for the dizziness than often accompanies migraines.
Acupuncture and acupressure points are known to be effective at relieving mild to moderate headaches and migraines. The most famous point is in the connecting valleys which are located on the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of both hands Press on this point with moderate pressure for 30-60 seconds of each hand. There are also points on the head, face, and at the base of the back of the skull which can relieve a headache.