Intro To Pain Migraines & Tension Headaches

Pain holds great power over us, the introduction of pain into our experience has the ability to completely alter how we view your reality. The pain I have had in my life has gradually but profoundly altered my personality from who I was when I was 20 (not missing him too often) to the person I am now. This is a good thing, I am far from perfect now but I was FURTHER from perfect then, and the pain of many events mistakes and oversights has been my guru.

We are destined to live with a certain amount pain in our lives, given how broadly we define the topic. Even if you don’t have headaches or sciatic pain sooner or later you wil stub your toes or a beloved pet will die. Whatever pain you have come along though it will bring opportunities for growth. Then there are the pains that you might be able to learn from, but you’d just rather get rid of, like tension headaches and migraines. If that’s you here are some solid basic concepts that may help you get rid of your headaches, or at least manage them better.

Image of woman struggling with a migraine headache in the workplace.

Some pains in life you could just do without, like a headache while you are trying to work.

Adjust Diet To Reduce Headaches

It is essentially common knowledge that certain foods can trigger tension headaches and migraines, this fact speaks to how common it is. 

We are all on a spectrum of ‘fed-upness’ when it comes to the niggly pains and symptoms we have in our lives. If you have a high pain threshold and relatively minor headaches it probably it may not seem worth it to quit chocolate, red wine and fancy cheeses in exchange for no headaches. If on the other hand you have a lower pain tolerance and/or very severe headaches you’ll more than likely be willing to do whatever it takes to free yourslef from them. 

This pain vs willpower to quit yummy foods axis is primarily where many headache outcomes are decided, most people know what foods make them feel crappy. 

There are however other cases where it is more complex because the sufferer is highly motivated to get rid of their headaches but simple isn’t aware of what foods are triggering them. 

If you have stubborn headaches or migraines that have been resistant to many forms of treatment, like those we provide at Featherston Street Pain Clinic there is a strong chance you have some unidentified food intolerances. Working with people who are trained and experienced in figuring these things out is often a major help. We met a lady recently who through an interdisciplinary approach was able to get off her daily prescription of a daily amytriptaline after 10 YEARS of dependency, a major part of this was because of foods that were eliminated. 

Adjust Lifestyle To Reduce Headaches

Lifestyle is a pretty broad concept wouldn’t you say? Hard to argue that a basket that large could not have some scope for progress in the headaches and migraine realm? Lifestyle is realistically not separate from the other solutions on our list for that matter. 

Lifestyle issues that may be causing you to experience more headaches and migraines than you would like are almost certainly the things that you already know are not the best for you. 

Binge drinking is not good. Foods loaded with sugar and additives are not good. Sleeping less than 7.5 hours is not good. Gaming for 6 hours at a time is not good. Not exercising is no good. Interacting with negative people who bring your energy down is not good. We could make a long list, and just about every item on the list would be something that can contribute to headaches and also something that you probably already  know is bad for you.

Sometimes a headache can be the voice of your conscience, telling you that something is not serving you. Isn’t that kind of what hangovers are… the author of this article has learned that one the haaaaard way:~)

Get Treatment To Reduce Headaches 

There are an army of clincians and practitioners out there who would jump at the chance to treat your tension headaches and/or migraine headaches. Doctors often prescribe medications, while herbalists have herbal remedies; naturopathic practitioners will assist you with dietary adjustments and supplements, acupuncturists are waiting to stab you better, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, Alexander  technique… the list is endless and there are heaps of great options and really very few excuses.

The reality is that finding treatment that works for your migraines may be as easy or as difficult as finding your favourite restaurant, some things in life are a process of elimination. When we go to a doctors with a stubborn condition there is often a process of elimination around which medication works best and in what quantity, exploring different methodologies to get rid of your migraine may end up being a similar task. Or you might get it right first time. 

At our clinic we use a combination of lifestyle coaching, acupuncture, acupressure, scar tissue release, spinal manipulation, postural correction and rehab exercises to treat tension headaches and migraine. We find that a ‘guild’ of treatments like this can have great effect in many headache and migraine cases. 

Reduce Stress To Reduce Headaches

We live in warm and mostly dry houses in clean cities, we are well nourished, we are safe, we are inoculated against a wide range of possibility that can make us sick… we have got it really good. The one thing that more than 80% of people tick the box for when they attend a clinic that treats pain is stress, anxiety and mental illness. Sometimes it seems like the one area of life that we have not made any progress with as a species. We figured out how to get to the moon long before we figured out how to stay sane. 

There has been a tidal surge of research that shows clearly that chronic pain complaints are exacerbated and sometimes even caused by stress, rest assured migraines and tension headaches will receive no exemption from this list. 

It is generally thought that there are 2 main ways that stress can increase complaints like shoulder pain, neck pain, tension headaches and migraines. First via ‘clenchy’ tight patterns of stress related muscle tone held persistently over time. Secondly via over-activation of the pain pathways deep in the brain and spinal cord. In either case the call is the same …. MANAGE YOUR STRESS .. INCREASE YOUR RESILIENCE. 

As was the case with seeking treatment there are a myriad of ways that you can manage stress depending on who you are and where you are at. At the most basic level we can experience meaningful  improvements on the stress-o-meter just by sleeping enough, eating the right stuff at the right times and getting enough exercise. At more specific depths we can do some yoga, mindfulness is a great help, therapy is crucial for many of us and float tanks can be an absolute game changer if you get in them regularly. There are many many other options to explore too. 

Research has shown the the simple act of acknowledging that one’s chronic pain has its roots partly on the mental emotional side of life can lead to far better outcomes. If you are unsure about whether stress could be playing a role in generating your stubborn tension headaches or migraines and good start point is sitting down with someone who can ‘pick-em’ so at least you know what you are dealing with. This is a big part of the service we offer at Featherston Street Pain Clinic. 

Image of man with a headache caused by stress.

Stress causes headaches and headaches cause stress.


Life is hard enough without walking around with a headache, maybe that’s the real reason why it’s worth getting rid of your tension headaches and migraines. Most of us are so busy just trying to figure out the basics that we could really do without a headache on top of everything else. The same goes for toothache doesn’t it!? You wouldn’t put up with toothache… if you have a pain in your tooth it’s normal to just get some help. In some ways that’s really all there is to headaches too.