Constipation, sluggish liver, and biliousness are very commonly associated with headache from this cause, and people sometimes say that their headache is due to too much blood in the brain. The characteristic of this type of headache is that it is relieved by a purgative, and, in some instances, can be kept at bay altogether by a regular dose of salines every morning. The better plan, however, is to get any digestive derangement corrected by simple diet, three small meals a day, outdoor exercise, and fresh air. Ask yourself if you are too fond of good living, if you like strong tea and coffee, and prefer to sit over a fire if the weather is not sufficiently inviting outside. Make up your mind to give up drugs, and to try instead what simple diet and a five-mile walk a day will do for you. Try to realise that so long as you have bad teeth, and do not chew your food sufficiently, you cannot hope to get rid of your headaches.
It is only within recent years that it has been fully recognised how many cases of headache are due to some error of refraction. The headache of eye-strain is worse with reading, writing, or sewing, and is better in the morning when the eyes have been rested during sleep. Eye-strain is often an unsuspected cause of headache, and people will say that they have splendid eyesight, and that their periodic headache cannot possibly be caused by their eyes. The apparent quality of the eyesight has nothing to do with the matter. Very slight astigmatism, for example, may cause severe headache, because of the strain on the muscles of accommodation. The headache is really due to fatigue, and can be cured at once by obtaining suitable glasses. Anyone who has a slight error of refraction is straining the eyes all the time in trying to see clearly objects around. A great many people are " headache martyrs " for years, who could be cured in three days if they would have their eyes tested and fitted with correcting glasses. Eye-testing should always be done by a medical oculist. It is the greatest mistake for people to go to an optician's shop and think they can choose their own glasses by the simple expedient of looking through them. In such cases headache will probably persist, because the error of refraction has not been accurately corrected.
And now let us deal with a few other causes of everyday headache which cannot be included in these three groups. Anaemia, for example, is responsible for a certain number of cases of headache amongst young girls. The brain is being ill-nourished with impoverished blood. Improved hygiene and iron pills are necessary if the headache is to be cured. If the headache of anaemia is due to too little, or poor, blood in the brain, the opposite condition is caused by the wearing of tight neck-bands and high collars, which produce congestion in the brain with a dull headache.
Another simple cause of headache with women and girls is a tender scalp. Heavy hats and hair-pads increase any natural tendency to irritation or tenderness of the scalp nerves, and a sort of neuritis is set up which may produce headache almost daily. In such cases, removal of hair-pads and the wearing of lighter hats is the proper cure.
The best advice that can be given to any woman who surfers from headaches is to avoid using sedative drugs. They may still the pain for the time, but the real cause of the headache is not influenced one bit, and the pain simply recurs with increasing intensity in the future, owing to the depressing action of anodyne drugs upon the heart and nervous system.
For the immediate relief of the pain the best domestic measures are rest, quiet, and abstinence from food - that is, if the headache is due to any error in diet or digestive derangement. The headache of fatigue can often be cured by twenty minutes' complete rest in bed, followed by sipping a glass of hot milk. To soothe the pain, a mustard-leaf over the nape of the neck acts as a counter-irritant and relieves congestion. Mustard-leaves can be bought in tins, and one is simply soaked for a moment or two in tepid water, then applied to the neck and covered with a folded towel.
Eau-de-Cologne or whisky applied to the top of the head acts as an evaporating lotion, and is a distinct aid in dealing with the pain. When the headache is very bad, there is no treatment which will have any effect except lying down quietly in bed to give the overstrained nerves a chance of recuperation. First bathe the feet and legs in a foot-bath containing very hot water, and a tablespoonful of mustard mixed in a little cold water and then added to the bath. Apply the mustard-leaf, the cold whisky or eau-de-cologne, and lie quietly in bed in a dark room, with a hot-water bottle at the feet. These measures draw the blood away from the head, and a short sleep may follow, which is the very best sedative in the world. A purgative should also be taken, and on recovery measures should be studied to guard against allowing the headache habit to become established.