By Dana Ullman MPH


(Excerpted from The One Minute or So Healer, North Atlantic/Random House)

This book does not primarily focus on how to use homeopathic medicines but instead provides information on various natural health strategies to treat common ailments.

WARNING: This book is a lighthearted practical health guide. Laughter may be a side effect.

  • Approximately 90% of all headaches are tension headaches. Perhaps they should be called “tension neck- and backaches” because it’s the tightening of the neck and back muscles that usually creates the head pain. The old Persian proverb that says, “The bigger a man’s head, the worse his headache,” may be correct after all: the extra weight on the neck and the extra ego that comes with a big or swollen head may be enough to make anyone feel top heavy.
  • Tension headaches seem to be an equal opportunity affliction. They can be caused by almost any type of stress: too much or too little exertion, too much or too little excitement, too hot or too cold temperature, too much or too little sleep, too erect or too limp posture, too much or too little food, and so on.
  • A tension headache can lead to irresponsible behavior. Even these, though may do have a practical value. It allows you to tell your spouse, “I can’t do the dishes, honey.” You can tell your employer, “I can’t finish that project.” You can tell your children, “Shut-up and stop having fun.” This selfish behavior, of course, will hopefully lead you rest and to take care of your headache. Sometimes it seems that a headache is nature’s way of telling you to relax.

If, however, your teeth are clenched so tightly that people think you’re doing a Clint Eastwood impersonation, if your neck is so tight that U.S. Steel wants to patent this musculature, and if your eyeballs hurt when you move them, even across this page, then you are paying the price of not resting enough and enjoying yourself. You now have some catch-up to do.

  • If your eyes are not cooperating with you, get someone to read you the following strategies to you.

Strategy #1: Don’t relax…at least not yet. An effective technique for reducing tension headaches is to tighten the muscles in the head, neck, and jaw for 5-10 seconds…and then release them. You may find that you will be able to achieve a deep level of relaxation and relief from this simple exercise.

Strategy #2: Get in touch with the temples. Remember the old aspirin commercials showing a furrow-browed man with an awful headache? As you may recall, he is seen massaging his temples. There are important acupressure points at the temples which can be used to relieve tension. Place four fingers (not the thumb) along both temples and do a circular massaging motion. Massage for a minute…and call me in the morning.

Strategy #3: Head to acupressure. The head and neck are full of invaluable acupressure points which can release tension when they are pressed firmly. Search your head and neck for “hot” points, that is, points that seem to be sensitive to pressure. Press them for at least five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Repeat several times.

Strategy #4: Your head is in your hands. There is an acupuncture point just barely under the bottom of the nail of your middle finger. If the pain is primarily on one side, then press the point on the hand of that side, and if it’s on both sides, then alternate pressing this point on each hand.

Strategy #5: Pretend to yawn. Chew a bit. Relax that jaw! If the jaw is tense, muscles in the head and neck can impede bloodflow to the head and aggravate tension headaches.

Strategy #6: Run away. Exercise can help loosen you up and release head, neck, and back tension. Exercising outside, as long as it is not too smoggy, carries the extra benefit of health breathing fresh air.

Strategy #7 : Take a break from your coffee. Drinking coffee is known to cause headaches in many people. It is also common to experience headaches while going through caffeine withdrawal. Don’t drink coffee; break away from it.

Strategy #8: Head for the herbs. Various herbal teas can help you to relax. Place a tablespoon each of camomile and scullcap into a cup of boiling water and let steep for five minutes. Another good combination of herbs is one teaspoon each of hops and peppermint, and two teaspoons each of camomile, rosemary, and wood betony.

Strategy #9 : A bright idea. Cool-white fluorescent lights– which are commonly used in many businesses–give some people headaches. Ask your employer to help enhance worker productivity by replacing these bulbs with full-spectrum lighting.

Strategy #10: Color yourself pain-free. Close your eyes and imagine a cool color pervading your head and neck. Choose whatever color is soothing to you. This cooling color should be moving and sweeping around; don’t let it stagnate. Research has shown that color does affect brain chemistry and behavior. Color therapy is not simply something for those who are interested in fashion; it also has potentially profound healing effect.

Strategy #11: No noise is good noise. Excessive noise can irritate anyone. Avoid loud music or being in situations where there is a lot of noise.

Strategy #12: See if your head is on straight: “_________ (your name), sit up straight!” Improper posture can stress neck or back muscles. If your office chair, your car’s seat, or any chair in your house doesn’t give you good support, do something about it.

Strategy #13: Learn to listen to your body. One of the most common and effective uses of biofeedback is teaching people how to treat headaches by learning how to consciously relax head, neck, and jaw muscles. After you master some basics of the ability to affect your own body, you can learn to do so without being hooked up to a machine.

Strategy #14: Watch “Candid Camera” reruns. Laughter releases tension. You may laugh your headache off.

Strategy #15: Play a different game. Tension headaches can result from an over-competitive personality. Create win-win situations. Appreciate the art of losing. Honor quality of performance, not the prize.