Why we are all heading for pain

  • Discover what the most searched for term is on the NHS website…
  • …prepare to be amazed that it isn’t a cure for the cold or flu!
  • Here is the advice we all need to listen to

As I sat down to write today’s newsletter I began to think what would be the most common pain most people would have to endure.

Most of us would know the agony of toothache, maybe slightly more the pain of a blister on the foot but I reckon the commonest of all would have to be a headache.

There can’t be many of us who haven’t had to cope with a dull thud, a tightened scalp or a piercing pain behind the eyes plus I reasoned many folk also suffer from migraines of varying sorts.

To my surprise I discovered that the most sought out page on the NHS website wasn’t headaches or even colds and flu, no it was stomach ache, closely followed by chest pains and then pregnancy due date calculator.

I’m sure that this tells us something about the Great British public and possibly the way we are living.

Of course it might be that this doesn’t show which is the most common pain, but more likely which is the pain that most people get and don’t understand why.

Having abdominal pains must be pretty scary for most people and even the experts say that these conditions are the most difficult to diagnose as the contents and associations of the organs and systems in our middle region complicate investigations.

What often surprises me is the fact that there are more neural connections in your gut than in your brain! This simple fact alone means that issues such as stress, anxiety and depression can seriously affect gut function and therefore overall health.

So, if you are suffering from bouts of tummy problems this might be a good place to start to understand what is happening in the dark recesses of your alimentary tract.

But for today I wanted to look at headaches – surprisingly a subject I haven’t touched upon before.

Mal de Tete

Looking further into the NHS website I can see that they agree with me and reckon that one in six of us (around 10 million people) get headaches regularly most are not serious and many are self inflicted, but with so many people suffering on a daily basis I thought I should offer some advice about how to deal with them.

I guess everyone knows the first golden rule about headaches… drink plenty of water because many of these problem occur due to dehydration. If you suffer from daily headaches in the early afternoon chances are that the coffees and teas you have been drinking in the morning have caused you to lose water as your body tries to get rid of the caffeine, this problem is significantly worse if you drink sugary drinks or the high caffeine energy drinks.

Always sip water alongside your daily brews to avoid the afternoon ache.

The next gratefully received tip is one that all Good Life Letter readers will also know about… ginger. Widely acknowledged as a fantastic way to deal with low level inflammation, act as a natural pain killer and improve circulation this really is the key to a pain free life.

A cup of ginger tea is a fantastic way to ease a headache and it can also help calm the stomach to ease the nausea associated with migraines.

Another handy tip, especially for hot summer days (remember them?) is to rub the back of the neck and your temples with an ice pack or ice cube. This also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, but also the cold numbs the pain. Incidentally, in the colder months putting your feet into a bowl of hot water laced with mustard powder can often yield similar results.

Finally, choose your herb! There is evidence that cinnamon, thyme and basil all help relieve headaches when eaten or used as a warm compress over the forehead, if you want a sweet smelling cure try peppermint or lavender oil on a tissue and gently inhale it in a nice quiet room.

My French friend swears by the power of thyme for virtually all ills, but especially headaches. His penchant for rich Beaujolais red wine means that he is no stranger to the gentle throbbing in the temples, and he swears by thyme tea as the best headache cure available.

Who am I to argue with a man who has conducted such thorough and long standing (occasionally lying comatose) research!

The cause

As mentioned earlier dehydration is a common cause of headaches but another is that they are a very common side effect of medication.

Just look at the leaflet that comes with any prescription drug and you will see that headache is frequently listed as a complication of their use… at least they are if you try to read the leaflet! Why does the print have to be so small?

Other causes are headgear that is too tight, so make sure that your woolly bobble hat is nice and loose!

Actually the other common cause is what the medics term ‘cervicogenic’ headaches as these originate in tight muscles in the neck and shoulders, or as a result of tension in the jaw. Very often these problems are associated with the types of posture we adopt when we are stressed.

Which kind of brings me full circle.

I began today by wondering what the commonest type of pain is in the UK and it seems to be that stress underlies much of what ails us.

Whether we are looking at headaches, stomach aches or chest pains chances are the answer is to relax a little more and take things a little easier.

The pace of modern life is getting increasingly fast and deadlines ever shorter, but in reality we should be asking ourselves whether they are that important.

After all by putting ourselves under such an emotional load we are just creating more problems we need to deal with.

Time to take a bit more care about ourselves and make sure others around is do the same – it is for everyone’s good.

Yours, as always