Welcome to Green Country!
Recently, we have developed a series of blog posts dedicated to addressing therapies for the most common types of physical pain, which begins with a conversation about back pain, and sums up with the transition to the current conversation about headaches that we made three weeks ago. This week, we continue the discussion, but first. . .
A review, what is headache pain?
Pain in general is the body’s way of letting you know something is wrong. These articles will focus on the types of headache pain that I treat most often in my practice.
Generally, my patients experience one of the following types of headaches:
- Tension headaches
- Sinus headaches
- Cluster headaches
Do you suffer from sinus problems?
If you live in Oklahoma, you’re probably rolling around on the floor right now laughing your congested head off. It seems that having sinus issues is key to enjoying the Oklahoma experience. Especially if you live in Tulsa. Tulsa is nicknamed “Green Country” for a reason. Springtime in Tulsa announces its arrival with an amazing display of color from all of the trees, shrubs and flowers blooming. In the fall, there is even more amazing color from the leaves turning and the fall grasses sprouting. But nature’s display comes at a price: allergies. Allergies that attack your sinuses and wreak havoc within your body.
My “Oklahoma Experience”
Most of you know I moved here from the Big Apple over 10 years ago. My first year here I discovered I had sinuses. My sinuses were there all along, mind you, but I had never been acquainted with them because they were accustomed to the New York environment and never had a reason to make their presence known.
Diagnosing sinus issues
I moved here in the middle of summer and noticed some occasional sneezing but really nothing that bothered me. Fall came and I began to have these weird headaches, constant sniffles and a dull ache behind my left eye. Still, I went about my merry way because these symptoms weren’t bad enough to make me feel like anything was wrong. Then one day I spiked a fever, my head closed up shop and my hearing was drastically reduced. My first thought was, "brain tumor!"
When I visited the doctor he seemed very casual about my imminent demise. He ordered an x-ray of my head and had me wait while he reviewed it. While I was waiting in the office, I began to make mental notes of who I would leave my guitars and piano to. Maybe donate some of the stuff to a school’s music program? He called me back into his office and proudly announced I had a sinus infection. I thought, “Wow this is worse than I realized because I’m hallucinating. I thought I heard him say 'sinus infection'."
The silver lining was that I was going to live. I had to take a course of antibiotics and take some days off. No big deal. The one thing that he said while I was leaving his office that worried me and still echoes in my brain today is, “Welcome to Green Country." This meant I was forever doomed to have sinus issues!
The problem, not the symptoms
That was back in the fall of 2001. Today, I have amassed some treatment therapies that help relieve sinus issues for me and my patients. Sinus troubles can be serious and you should see your doctor if you have chronic or severe problems. The first thing that was confirmed for me, by a physician friend of mine, is that seasonal allergies are a trigger for sinus infections. Allergens are microscopic and can get lodged in the nasal passageways, including the sinus cavities. The body responds to this with inflammation, causing the sinus membranes to swell and limiting the fluid drainage. Without the proper drainage, a perfect environment for bacteria and other unwanted things to take up lodging in your head is created. When you sneeze, your body is trying to dislodge the allergen(s). The inflammation can also cause headaches behind the eyes or directly behind the eyebrows. In my case, hearing loss was also a symptom.
Treatment that works
Treatment options are varied. Talk to your doctor first. If you have allergies, do whatever therapy is recommended by your doctor. If you want to supplement those therapies, here are some suggestions:
- Try acupuncture. There have been studies that show acupuncture to be helpful in relieving seasonal allergies. This is what I did first. There is a therapist in town who helped me tremendously.
- The best treatment is prevention. Eating the local honey helps build resistance for some people.
- Build or boost your immune system by taking supplements. This makes sense because a strong immune system can keep a reaction to allergens from becoming a full blown infection. Or, if an infection does result, immune support can help you recover from an infection quickly.
- My favorite prevention therapy is using a Neti Pot. This has been my treatment of choice. If you are not familiar with Neti Pots, they are devices designed to flush your nasal passageways using water and salt. The therapy is simple and effective. I advise that you have someone with experience to show you how to do it, or look it up on YouTube. . . it requires a little coordination to get everything going right.
- Treatments for chronic sinus headaches include aroma therapy, acupressure, massage therapy and again crainosacral therapy. These techniques can be taught to you as part of a self-help or self-treatment program. Because every case is different, you should seek the advice of someone who has experience in these areas. These therapies are designed to relieve sinus pressure or sinus headaches, and to help sinus pain. My patients have reported that after they find the particular treatment that works best for them, their sinuses “open up” and drain, thereby reducing the headache and other symptoms.
Help is here
Sinus problems are especially intense here in Green Country. I have people tell me of all types of antibiotics they have had to take and surgeries they have had to undergo in order to correct the problem. The results are mixed and vary by extremes. But don’t despair, Tulsa. Help is here — while there is no cure that I know of there are ways to get relief.
Next week, we will wrap this series with a conversation about cluster headaches. What’s next? What do you want to learn about? Drop me a line and tell me what’s on your mind.
peace and love,