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Putting Relief in Your Hands
Do you remember your last severe migraine? If so, you would probably rather forget it if you could. If you've ever had one, then you know migraine's devastating, all-consuming misery. More than just pain, it puts you under its spell, possesses your entire being, and renders you a blob on the bed, unable to form a thought. All you can do is stay still and hope to quell the nausea and pounding — BA BOOM, BA BOOM, BA BOOM — that goes on and on, sometimes for days, even weeks.
Stumbling to the bathroom to find your rescue medication and hoping you don't throw up, you catch your face in the mirror and barely recognize yourself. As you make your way back to bed, you pray that the pill will stay down and take effect. Fear creeps in. Last time when the pain was this bad, you went to the emergency room for a shot of Demerol. You wonder if you should call your doctor now or suffer through it and wait until your next appointment?
What if there was another way — a completely different option? Imagine that you wake up with a splitting headache and give yourself a hands- on treatment that completely relieves your pain, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. In an hour or two, instead of days, your headache is gone, and your body recalibrates: your equilibrium returns, your face regains its color, and your eyes can tolerate the light. The jangling sounds and sickening odors that overwhelmed you just moments before have receded into the background.
Inhale. Exhale. Ah-h-h. You finally take a deep breath and let it go. You feel fine, your appetite returns, and you have a bite to eat. Soon everything is back to normal. You resume your day, and it's as if the migraine never happened. That night you sleep well, and you awake refreshed in the morning.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have that power over your headache or migraine pain? Or better yet: What if you could prevent your pain to begin with — and without medication or side effects? How would your life be different?
You're Not Alone
In the midst of a migraine, you might feel very alone — but you're not. Headaches are second only to back pain as the most common condition presented to doctors, and one in four U.S. households has a headache sufferer.
Annually, an estimated 37 million people in the United States get migraines. Between one-half and two-thirds, or about 21 million, are women. This disabling condition renders this population bedridden for 112 million days per year, which takes its toll on the business world too, costing companies $13 billion annually, $8 billion of which is attributed to missed workdays. Adolescents and children are not immune either: Up to 10 percent of kids and teens, ages five to fifteen, and 28 percent of older teens, ages fifteen to nineteen, cope with migraine as one of their five most prevalent chronic conditions.
Despite billions of healthcare dollars spent on medications and research, the exact causes of and solutions for migraine remain a mystery — and patients continue to suffer. Theories of pain, the brain, migraine causes, and who gets them and why have been studied, discussed, accepted, and rejected by clinicians, scientists, and researchers for the past century. They have examined blood flow, arterial and nerve inflammation, neurotransmitter activity, genetics, and more, but although science is certainly getting closer, no definitive mechanism has yet been found.
Doctors, books, and multiple online sources tell patients that migraines are forever and simply can't be cured, rendering famous the unnerving admonition: "You'll just have to learn to live with it." It seems unbelievable. Who wants to think they will always be in pain?
Not satisfied with sitting around, headache patients set out to find solutions. They seek help from neurologists, psychologists, and a variety of other specialists, who usually prescribe several medications to manage the pain and other symptoms — and even the primary medications' side effects. After much trial and error, they might seem to be doing better, but then the medications cease working, and so they begin their search for help again. Patients change therapies and doctors, add new specialists, and try complementary approaches, yet still they suffer.
Suzette, vice president of worldwide marketing for a high-tech company, had suffered from excruciating migraines since she was five years old. Through thirty years of dealing with pain, she had been "misdiagnosed, mismanaged, and misunderstood by traditional doctors, chiropractors, and alternative therapists." Hers was not the occasional headache that goes away with a couple of aspirin: she experienced the overwhelming combination of pain, nausea, and sensitivity to smells and light that is typical for migraine sufferers. Her search for relief was also typical:
I had learned everything I could that science and medicine have uncovered about the diagnosis, treatment, and medications for migraine. My treatment over the years included almost every type of preventive medication and pain reliever, from beta-blockers, epilepsy drugs, narcotic painkillers, and muscle relaxants to herbal remedies, supplements, and anti-nausea medication. I tried eliminating trigger foods, stressful situations, and schedule changes. In the last ten years, I was able to find one drug that worked well in stopping a headache if it was injected at the first sign of pain. Unfortunately, I knew my time was limited in using the drug because of its rebound qualities, and I wondered about possible effects on my heart as I grew older.
Suzette's story — of pain, frustration, and a remedy that complicates the original problem — is echoed by millions, and for many, a downward spiral of despair takes hold.
The Healing Challenge
Fortunately, that's right where The Headache Healer's Handbook comes in. This book walks you through the Mundo Program of mind-body therapies and practices to help you identify, reduce, and eliminate the causes of your headaches — and improve your overall health. It isn't magic; it's cause and effect: you make changes and get a new result.
By uncovering the clues in your daily life and understanding how they relate to your headaches, individually and in combination, you can crack the case like a detective. You will be successful if you are aware, thorough, and take each step slowly — and if you are willing to take new actions and shift old habits. After all, even a pill won't work if you don't swallow it. If you accept the challenge, your headaches will diminish and disappear.
Everything counts. Everything you do and are adds up to your pain. Change occurs when you claim self-empowerment, use "beginner's mind," incorporate stress reduction and hands-on therapies, and examine the deeper realms of your life. As the program unfolds, you will be able to summon your inner headache warrior, detective, and coach.
This self-care path takes a somatic approach, which means it works with your inner awareness of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The term somatics, coined by Dr. Thomas Hanna, derives from the Greek word soma, or "living body." A somatic approach defines the body as an expression of one's entire being. More than simply a collection of mechanical parts, the body holds our life experience, including our history, and shapes our thinking, language, moods, and actions.
But how can somatic awareness heal headaches if modern medicine can't? Somatic self-care addresses a different realm than that of standard medical treatment and even some alternative therapies. In a somatic approach, the treatment is the process. It empowers you to take healing into your own hands. A pill doesn't address why and how you collect stress in your shoulders, clench your jaw, or stop breathing. Neither does it teach you how those factors contribute to your headaches, how to change them, or when and why you first embodied them.
Beyond tips and techniques, somatic self-care builds awareness of your automatic, unproductive reactions or patterns when they arise. It includes your inner experience and opens possibilities for shifting yourself in the moment. In this way, you can affect those seemingly unbreakable patterns that have added to your stress and challenged your health.
Life without Headaches: A Coach's Promise
How can you change your outlook from one of despair, fear, and powerlessness to one of faith, hope, and empowerment? With the help of a coach, of course!
A great coach, healer, teacher, or mentor in any domain is someone who believes in and sees the best in you. A coach tells you that you can and will do better and supports you in reaching your goals. A coach helps you look at things in new ways, kicks your butt if you lose your way, encourages you to get back on the horse when you fall off, and tells you to keep going when you want to give up. A coach keeps you focused on what is important and teaches you how to weigh your options and make choices based on your goals. A coach holds your big vision for you when you can't, don't, or won't and reminds you when you forget or forget how.
The Mundo Program is designed to be your personal headache coach. By taking on the practices and integrating the material in these pages, you will know more about yourself and your headaches, gain better health, and feel empowered to take charge of your life in many areas. In the process you will learn to rely on your own vision to see the big picture as well as the small one and to trust yourself to evaluate your options, make choices, and correct course if you falter. In the end, you will have become your own coach and healer.
For Kids and Teens Too
This book is for anyone who wants to both relieve and prevent headaches naturally, which includes kids and teens.
Some children and adolescents I've worked with started suffering from headaches as young as five and six years old — and some can't recall a time without them. Because their pain began at such tender ages, it's as if their bodies were readouts of the stress around them. Some felt tension or upheaval at home from divorce, illness, or familial birth or death; some were coping with bullying, trauma, or relocating to a new home, school, or city. Some were influenced by negative messages about diet, weight, appearance, and belonging. Some kids felt pressure to be perfect, excel, and win, while others felt frustrated and isolated because they were always sick with migraine. They carried the burden of their emotions (and often the result of "plain ole" bad habits) in their headaches.
Luckily, kids respond well to information about food, diet, and exercise, and are even open to learning new ways to calm down, like meditation or changes in their breathing and posture. Just as with adults, the key for kids is finding the right combination for each person, creating motivation, and teaching them and their parents. Instead of taking medications, they learn to make the connections between their stressors and their headaches, along with practical things they can do to avoid pain.
For Family and Friends: How to Help
Family and friends of people with migraine can feel helpless because they want to do something but don't know what to do or how to do it. If you are reading this book to support someone you care about, bravo!
Migraineurs are super sensitive to all stimuli, including touch, so it can be hard to know what is helpful or why your usually effective massage is not being welcomed. Not feeling well, migraine sufferers often withdraw from their usual family, work, and social activities, which can strain relationships and commitments — and then they feel bad or guilty about that too.
In these pages, you will find a variety of ways to help and support your family member or friend with migraine, and hopefully you will be inspired to add healthy living practices to your own life. Most people don't want to be treated differently because they are sick — especially children and teens. If the whole family has a healthy diet, your child, teenager, or spouse will feel that it's the norm. The same goes for postural awareness and stress reduction practices like breathing and meditation. By following the program, friends and family members can help while improving their own health.
It's true: some people have never experienced a migraine. If you have never had one and are trying to support someone who does, the first step is understanding how disabling it is. Try to recall the worst hangover you have ever had. If you are underage or have never had a hangover, do you remember having a fever, cold, virus, flu, infection, or other illness that left you feeling as sick as a dog, with your head about to explode?
In migraine, as with hangovers and illnesses, the symptoms are not just in your head, which would be bad enough. They take over your entire body. You feel overpowered, weak, and nauseated. Your skin turns pallid. The slightest movement makes you feel worse, and lights, sounds, and scents become magnified. You're disoriented and can't think straight, let alone sit or stand. You feel lucky to make it to the bathroom to throw up a few times, have the dry heaves with what's left, and make it back into bed.
You get the picture. Although everyone's experience is slightly different, if you have ever suffered like that, you have a glimpse into the world of migraine sufferers — except that their condition returns, often unpredictably, again and again. Can you see why someone would be sensitive to remarks like "How bad can it be — it's only a headache"? Your empathy and gentle suggestions can be more helpful than you realize.
Make Sure You're Okay, Then Proceed
The program and methods in these pages are not a substitute for medical advice. Before you proceed, make sure you have gotten a headache diagnosis from your doctor to rule out any other serious causes. All my headache clients are, or have been, under the care of neurologists and were initially examined by their primary care providers.
If you experience a negative change, especially a sudden worsening, in your regular headaches or headache patterns, whether or not you have had a diagnosis, contact your doctor right away!
Most headaches are primary and inorganic, which means that (1) the headache is the actual cause of the pain and (2) you can't locate it in a fixed, physical spot in your head, like a tumor, for example.
Secondary headache means that the headache is secondary to an underlying organic, often more serious condition, such as a concussion, brain tumor, cancer, meningitis, or an aneurysm. If an underlying condition related to injury, illness, or disease is causing your headache, get treatment for it immediately.
If you are taking medication for your headaches, continue to work in conjunction with your doctor. After you have a strong grounding in mind-body practices for relief and prevention and your headaches have become less frequent and intense, you can ask the prescribing doctor for a regimen to help you stair-step down slowly from the medication you are taking.
How to Read This Book
Although you might be tempted to skip directly to the acute treatment parts of the book that show how to relieve your headache or migraine on the spot, don't do it! Transforming long-standing chronic headache patterns is a process that requires you to integrate new practices one by one, over time.
For example, I typically work with clients in fifteen to twenty one-hour weekly sessions, and more if we do bodywork or headache relief, or if a client has a history of trauma. A class series typically runs eight weeks, two hours per week. Both have homework and practices in between. The weekly spacing allows participants to integrate a new practice before learning the next, and I encourage you to take your time in working through the chapters.
The pacing depends on the individual because each person's headache puzzle is different. Find what feels balanced for you. Some areas might take more of your attention than others. You have the book, and you always have your body, so you don't necessarily have to wait a whole week for each new lesson. The idea is to take action without getting overwhelmed. If you read through but don't engage, you will stand still. If you go too quickly (e.g., quitting caffeine cold turkey), you might get rebound headache. If you go too slowly, the continuity of balancing multiple life factors could get lost.
Here's what I recommend: To achieve the promised results, follow the program steps in order. Each practice teaches the skills needed to advance to the next level. That way, you will develop as you go, build on what you learn, and be prepared for each new step.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Headache Healer's Handbook"
Copyright © 2018 Jan Mundo.
Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsContents
Introduction (or Preface and Introduction)
Part One. Entering In
Chapter 1. Putting Relief In Your Hands
Chapter 2. What’s Your Headache Type?
Chapter 3. Your Personal Headache Profile
Chapter 4. The Mind–Body-Headache Connection
Part Two. Handling Headache Triggers
Chapter 5. The Chinese Menu Theory
Chapter 6. Dietary Triggers
Chapter 7. Environmental, Lifestyle, and Physical Triggers
Chapter 8. Medication and Hormonal Triggers
Chapter 9. Diet for Migraine Prevention
Chapter 10. Tracking Your Triggers
Part Three. Creating Balance Through Awareness
Chapter 11. Breathing In, Breathing Out
Chapter 12. Being Still: Mindfulness and Headaches
Chapter 13. Posture, Ergonomics, and Sleep
Chapter 14. The Zen of Exercise and Headaches
Part Four. Hands-on: The Healing Power of Touch
Chapter 15. Touch Prep: Listening With Your Hands
Chapter 16. Backing Down Headaches with Self-Massage
Chapter 17. Relax Your Head and Face
Chapter 18. Headaches in the Language of Touch
Chapter 19. Mundo Method Therapy Self-care Instructions
Part Five. The Deeper Realms of Headache
Chapter 20. Headaches, Somatic Shaping, and Trauma
Chapter 21. Embodied Wisdom: Your Feeling Self
Part Six. Embodying Your New Life
Chapter 22. Completion and Appreciation
About the Author