Headache is pain and aches in the region of the forehead, scalp, behind the eyes, temple, and neck, it can be mild, moderate to severe, and can be acute or chronic in origin. Nature of the pain can be throbbing, squeezing, pulsating, constant,unrelenting, or intermittent. In Ayurveda, this is called Shirashul.
The primary reason for Shirashul is vitiated Vata dosha, which gets combined with other vitiated doshas, accumulates in the region of the head, and causes pain. In Ayurveda, classic 11 types of primary headaches (Shirashul) are described. According to world health organization (WHO) headache is simple form of nervous disease & half of the population in the world suffers from headache at least once in a year. There are many reasons & types of Headache but this is classified into 2 main types- Primary Headache & secondary headache.
Primary headache is due to pathology in the pain-sensitive structure of head. A secondary headache is a symptom due to any other disease present in the body eg.-headache due to sinusitis or dental carries. The most common reasons for primary headache are - Migraine, Cluster Headache & Tension Headache.
Migraine is excruciating or throbbing pain in half of the head or all over the head. In Ayurveda, Migraine can be compared with Ardhavbhedak & Vata vitiated with pitta dosha is the main reason behind it. Modern science is unable to describe the etiology (reasons) of this disease but in Ayurveda classics, some causes are mentioned like- excess alcohol and smoking, suppressing natural urges, late night sleeping, sleeping in a day, longtime work in smoke & dust.
Migraine comes in form of an attack which can last for 45 minutes to 24 hours. After an attack person feels very normal but during a migraine attack pain is so severe that one cannot able to do any work. Ayurveda classics compare this pain to a scorpion bite or someone hitting the head with a hammer. This pain can be followed by nausea & vomiting. Migraine can be with aura or without aura. Aura is preliminary subjective symptoms before the headache, like ringing in the ears or weakness or visualization of special things in light. Headache is followed by aura in 30% population suffering from migraines. Photophobia, loss of concentration, tinnitus in ears etc. are some associated symptoms of Migraine.
Tension headache is the most common form of headache. Yearly many people suffer from this type of headache. This is a continuous or constant type of pain in the scalp or forehead which can last for a few minutes to one week. Stress, improper or less sleep at night, heavy workload, travel, and emotional stress are some precipitating factors for tension headache. Though reasons are not known but in Ayurveda, Vata dosha prakopa is the primary reason. Due to the precipitating factors mentioned above muscle surrounding the head becomes stiff and contracts which cause continuous pain in that region. Tension headache is totally harmless type of headache but the quality of work and life may get affected due to this.
Cluster headache occurs in a cluster pattern hence this name is given. This headache comes in groups i.e.It occurs daily at the same time for some weeks to month then there is a symptom-free period of 3 to 4 months, after this 3- 4 months, the same pattern occurs. In this type, headache is unilateral affecting one side of the head, cheek, eyebrow and eye, also associated with redness of the eye, watering of eye and jaw pain. Nature of pain is pulsating, intermittent & severity of pain is moderate to severe, which can be followed by nausea & vomiting. This type of headache is not associated with aura.
Causes of cluster headache are unknown but some scholars believe that it may be due to a sudden release of the chemicals histamine and serotonin in the brain. Smoking, Alcohol, disturbed biological clock, stress are triggering factors for cluster headache.
Management of Shirashul/ Headache
In moderns medicine some NSAIDs and antidepressants are used, also triptans & ergotamine class drugs are used to treat headaches but due to their side effects & cost, these medicines are not advised to take for longer duration. Ayurveda believes in treating root cause of disease so there is no any pain killer medication used.
Main reason for headache (Shirashul)Vata and associated doshas are treated with the safe herbal medicines like bhringaraja(eclipta alba), rasona (allium saivum), vasa, Shirish, ardrak (Ginger). If these doshas are accumulated in excess quantity in the body then body purification with Panchkarma’s like Virechan, Basti, Nasya, Shirodhara can be done. There are many medicines in Ayurveda for shiroraga (diseases of head)which can be used according to a person’s digestive capacity (agni), dosha prakopa, body constitution (prakruti), etc.
While treating Shirashul, Yogasana &Pranayama also works very well with the Ayurveda treatment. Anumloma-Viloma Pranayama & Tratak is very helpful for relieving symptoms of Shirashul.
- Stop eating food that aggravates Vata dosha like- horse gram, dried food, packaged & refrigerated products, cold drinks, ice-cream, etc.
- Do not eat spicy and heavy to digest foods like pickles, chili products, sago, etc.
- Also avoid fermented food like bakery products- bread, Idli-dosa, cake
- Avoid eating fast food like pizza, burgers, vada-pav, missal, etc.
- Do not suppress natural urges like urination, defecation, etc.
- Avoid the cold breeze which comes from the east side, especially while riding a bike.
- Avoid excess alcohol, tobacco & smoking; also avoid late-night parties or study.
- Avoid stress either physical or emotional. Avoid the habit of sleeping in a daytime.