Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can lead to chronic disease. It is caused by the Borrelia bacteria, which is a type of spirochete phylum. Lyme disease affects upwards of 400,000 Americans every single year.
The rampant rate of infection in the United States results in many of these people living with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PLTDS), a chronic condition that has a lasting effect on the body and mind of the patient. For some with PLTDS, headaches are just one of the many debilitating symptoms.
The uphill battle of Lyme disease treatment
There is a plethora of different and incapacitating symptoms caused by the Borrelia bacteria. This is due to its ability to travel into all systems of the body. There is no telling which organs will be affected the most on a person-by-person basis, because many people suffer from a variety of ailments and no two Lyme disease infections are exactly alike.
The treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics, but even then, the bacteria can evade the healing effects of the medicine and set up shop within the body for months or even years following infection. Its ability to hide within the lymph nodes and tissues is what gives it its staying power. Furthermore, antibiotic therapy can also cause other health issues, as it kills both good and bacteria during its eradication of an infection.
Migraines and Lyme disease
Lyme disease sufferers are especially susceptible to coinfections. Coinfections are other illnesses that go hand in hand with Lyme disease, either caused directly by the virus or developed over time because of the symptoms that the virus causes. Because spirochetes have the ability to enter the nervous system, and essentially pass through the blood-brain barrier, they have the ability to affect the brain in a very negative way.
This infiltration of the system can cause symptoms such as chronic fatigue, neurological decline, and migraines. The migraines found in sufferers of Lyme disease can range in severity, but for most, they will have a devastating impact on health and day-to-day life.
What kind of headache does Lyme disease cause?
Headaches due to Lyme disease are caused by swelling and inflammation. The bacteria that causes the illness inflames everything it touches; thus if it does happen to pass through to the brain, it will inflame that as well. Lyme headaches often present themselves as throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, sensitivity to light and sound, and pulsing in the head.
The symptoms can also occur in conjunction with vomiting and nausea, and can last for days on end. Lyme headaches are difficult to treat because, when recovering from the virus, it’s important to limit the use of further medications to allow the body and its systems to be able to fight off the bacteria and return to optimal health.
Natural remedies for Lyme disease-driven migraines
Since Lyme disease patients should limit the amount of medications they consume, natural treatments are the best bet for relieving Lyme-related headaches. There are many things a person can do from the comfort of their home that can offer relief.
Avoiding trigger foods
Many foods can encourage a Lyme disease flare-up. They include:
- Foods high in nitrates
- Cheeses high in tyramine
- Alcohol and red wine
- Foods high in MSG
- Ice cream and extremely cold drinks
- Heavily processed foods
- Pickled foods
- Dried fruits
- Dairy products that are heavily cultured
To help a migraine, it is better to eat foods that can help reduce inflammation, such as:
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Non-citrus fruits such as cherries or cranberries
- Sesame seeds
- Foods rich in magnesium
Some teas have also been proven to help those who suffer from migraines. These include:
- Chamomile tea
- Peppermint tea
- Green tea
- Ginger tea
- Feverfew tea
Essential oils have long been hailed as helpful treatment options for many ailments. There are a wide variety of oils that are used for different things. In the battle against Lyme-induced migraines, both peppermint oil and lavender oil could have positive effects.
Some studies have found that peppermint oil is best used prior to the onset of a migraine and can have preventative effects when applied to the temples and forehead. Lavender oil has also been studied in conjunction with headaches and it was found to ease the pain during a migraine. Lavender oil is best used as an inhaler.
Calming exercises such as yoga
Exercising during a migraine may not be possible, but some studies have showed that participating in regular yoga sessions could help ease the duration and frequency of migraines. It’s also been suggested that yoga could help to reduce the severity of migraines in those who suffer. It has not yet been designated a primary form of therapy, but when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, has had positive effects.
There are two types of physical therapy that Lyme disease headache sufferers could benefit from. The first is acupressure. By applying pressure to certain points on the body, pain can be relieved from other areas. This practice is widely regarded as an alternative therapy.
The other form of physical therapy that has been proven to help people with migraines is massage therapy. Massage therapy works by relaxing muscle tissue as well as reducing compression on the nerves. Studies show that regular or weekly sessions can help minimize the severity, duration, and frequency of migraines.
What else can you do during a migraine attack?
When all else fails and the migraine takes over, laying in a dark, cool room with an ice pack over your head could help ease the pain associated with a migraine. A warm bath with stress-relieving salts may also help to ease pain and quicken recovery.
Dealing with Lyme-induced headaches isn’t easy, but there are ways to deal with the often debilitating pain that goes along with them.