How Headaches Differ by Body Type, and How To Manage Them

Headaches are typically thought to be related to your dosha type in Ayurveda, so your management efforts and treatments should differ by type.

Vata headaches typically occur in the back of the head, and are often accompanied by neck and back stiffness, and even constipation. For vata headaches, an oil massage over the neck and shoulders, as well as a nighttime foot and scalp massage – both with sesame oil – can be very effective. Also, try the following: combine 1 teaspoon of nutmeg powder and water into a paste, and spread on your forehead for 30 minutes for relief. Warm water with triphala, taken at night, will also detoxify the colon over time and prevent the onset of vata headaches. Hydrating frequently is also a precautionary measure important for avoiding vata type headaches. Also, try a vata pacifying diet to avoid frequent occurrence.

Pitta headaches often start at the temples with pain radiating to the frontal lobe, and often have a throbbing and piercing quality to them. They are exacerbated by bright lights, and often emanate from stomach ailments such as acid indigestion. Cooling teas and pastes are effective. Try a cumin-coriander tea (drink at room temperature) or a apply a cooling sandalwood or aloe vera paste to the temples. Aloe vera can also be helpful when consumed 2-3 times a day to keep these headaches at bay. For many, sweet fruits (watermelons, figs, dates) can provide quick relief. Head oil massages with brahmi oil will be helpful. People prone to pitta headaches should also take measures to avoid excessive sun exposure and wear a hat in the outdoors! A pitta-balancing diet should be followed if you are frequently experiencing pitta headaches.

Kapha headaches often go hand in hand with sinus congestion as well as a cold, cough and allergies. If your headache occurs in the winter or spring and becomes worse when you bend down, it is most likely in this category. They also frequently occur in the morning and evening and the pain will often start in the upper frontal part of the head and move downward. Warming pastes and steam can help relieve these often sinus-based headaches. Try making a paste of ginger, by mixing a teaspoon of ginger paste with water and apply to your forehead. Ginger can sometimes slightly irritate skin (especially for pitta types) so wash off if the sensation becomes uncomfortable. You may also want to consider eucalyptus steam. Drop 10 drops of eucalyptus oil into a pot of boiled water and inhale the steam with a towel over your head. Kapha-balancing diets can also help.

Of course if a headache persists over the course of a couple days, or you have severe symptoms like vomiting and vision problems, then it is time to see a doctor.

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