Headaches are a common experience for many and effect all sexes, genders, and ages around the world.  Globally, it is estimated that 20% of people at any particular moment have a tension-type headache.  Migraines, which can feel quite severe, effect up to 12% of people.  25% of Canadian households experience migraines.  There are many types of headaches but migraines and tension-type are two of the most common and often treated with medications.

In naturopathic medicine, we aim to identify both the type of headache and the root cause so that we can provide optimal relief.  One’s physical alignment and posture, for instance, can play a role.  So can dehydration, skipping meals, stress, and tension.  For women, menstrual headaches and associated hormone changes can lead to headaches.  Other aspects, like digestion and liver health, allergies, and food triggers can all cause or worsen headaches.  All of these can help naturopathic doctors determine connections and get to the root cause.  In this way, we may help lessen your need for medication and afford some relief.

Tension-type headaches often have a stress component.  Stress can lead to muscle tension and postural changes.  Stress can cause us to skip lunch when we are busy or reach for another cup of coffee.  All of these are aspects to consider when suspecting a headache is linked to stress.  In these cases, Rest and Relaxation (R&R) techniques can help.  It could be listening to music or pursuing creative endeavours, like painting or writing.  It could be a warm bath or massage.  For others, laughing with friends, doing yoga, or physical affection with pets or loved ones can help.  There are a multitude of options to relieve stress.  These and other options such as herbal medicines, nutrients, supplements, and mindfulness techniques, are all what naturopathic doctors are trained to provide.

Migraine headaches have a number of potential food triggers, from common everyday foods to artificial sweeteners like aspartame.  Working to determine which foods are triggers for you can help prevent your migraines in the future.  Analyzing diet and digestion can also provide clues to bring relief.  While we explore the root causes, we can attempt pain relief in the moment using nutrients, herbs, and supplements.

All of these aspects and more can unlock the clues to pain relief from headaches.


Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

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