Healing Through Homeopathy:A Case of Chronic Headaches

Chronic headaches are one of the most common and distressing
problems for many of our patients. Homeopathic medicine can be
remarkably effective in treating headaches, regardless of their etiology. In
eliciting the patient’s symptoms, a homeopathic interviewer must understand
many explicit details concerning the headaches, including how long the patient
has suffered with the headaches and any original etiology, quality and
intensity of pain, site of the headache and whether it is localized or
radiating, causative factors, time of onset, duration, other symptoms of any
kind which accompany or precede the headache, and any modalities (ie: what
tends to make the headache better or worse). Whereas allopathic, or even
holistic, medicine, may not vary treatment of a headache according to the above
factors, homeopathy makes definite distinctions.

In Kent’s Repertory, the most standard repertory used by most
homeopaths, there are 89 pages devoted to head pain. Listed under the general
rubric (heading) “head pain, headache in general”, 259 homeopathic remedies are
listed. Kent lists 4l different qualities of head pain ranging from the more
common “dull pain”, “shooting”, and “sore” to the more unusual “lan-cinating”,
“boring”, “crushed, as if shattered, beaten to pieces”, “grinding”, “as from a
nail”, “stunning; stupefying”, and many more. Homeopathy can even determine the
correct remedy for a headache according to the etiology, prescribing
differently depending on whether the headache was due to exposure to a draft,
chill, or heat exposure, followed anger, grief, or “excessive joy”. or occurred
after ingestion of specific substances such as alcohol, candy, meat, milk,
coffee, tea, or even lemonade. Further details which differentiate between
remedies might include periodicity, onset after listening to music, after
lactation, before, during, or after the menses, or during the climacteric.The
homeopath learns quite quickly that the only way to find the correct remedy for
his or her patient’s very specific symptoms is by an extremely detailled
casetaking. It may take five or ten minutes just to gather the necessary
symptomatic informa- tion about the headaches. In a case, such as the one that
follows, where there are several types of headaches, this same type of explicit
information must be gathered about each classification of headache. This type
of interview, needless to say, requires the full attention and patience of the
homeopath. As with any symptom, if the patient has experienced it for more
than a couple of months or has had it in the past, it falls into the category
of chronic illness and the homeopath must take “the full case”. This means
interviewing the patient for one to one and a half hours about all of his or
her symptoms, physical, mental, and emotional, rather than just the headache
symptoms. On the other hand, if the headache is acute and isolated, not part of
a chronic pattern, one may evaluate only the headache symptoms and prescribe
accordingly.

If you know a little bit about homeopathy and we ask you, “What is the
single most common remedy for headaches?”, you might respond, correctly,
“Belladonna”. However, in a homeo- pathic practice, if you know only about
Belladonna, you won’t get very far in helping your pa-tients alleviate their
headaches nor in achieving the homoepathic goal in the treatment of head-aches,
to have them go away pretty much once and for all, or, if they do return, to be
infrequent and of mild intensity.

All of this information given above will hopefully help you appreciate how
exacting the task of a homeopath is in prescribing for chronic headaches and to
understand why we asked all of the questions that we did in the following
case.

R.M., age 38, came to see us in March of this year because of five years
of chronic headaches. She was tall, thin, and had long blonde hair.The
headaches had been getting progres- sively worse and were interfering with her
life as a graduate student in an intensive and taxing Tibetan studies program.
She was beginning to do research for her dissertation, involving nearly
non-stop reading, and wanted to be free of her head- aches. She described two
different types of headaches. The type l headache involved severe pain in the
temples, occiput, or behind the eyes, pressing in the temples and bursting in
the occiput or begind the eyes. They occurred once every month or two, started
in the afternoon or evening, and lasted several days. She would experience
nausea and vertigo with the headache as well as sensitivity to noise and light
and a general crankiness. They would be somewhat better by lying down in a
cool, dark place and were aggravated by heat, motion, drinking lots of water,
or doing should-stand yoga postures. The type II headache was less intense,
but occurred every two weeks. It was characterized by a dull ache across the
forehead and resulted from eyestrain and being overtired, both of which were
inevitable in her rigorous program of study.

She complained of frequent memory lapses during which whe would forget
what she was sup-posed to do or what she had read. She had recently forgotten
to administer an exam even though she had been reminded about it the previous
evening. This disturbed her considerably. She des-cribed her mind as “dull”.
When asked a question, she would hear the words, but need to repeat the
question in her mind before answering. A review of symptoms revealed the
following: She had a history of eczema on the hands, a painful right-sided
otitis media several years ago, occa-sional constipation, knee and ankle pain
since she jogged regularly, and no gynecologic com- plaints.Her sexual energy
was average. She was unmarried and did not want children. She complained of
shakiness if she went for a long time without eating, was extremely sensitive
to cigarette smoke, and tended to be chilly with cold extremities. Mentally and
emotionally she had always been shy, sometimes painfully so, was reserved, a
loner, and not overly emotional or sen-timental. She could be perceived by
others as being unfeeling and having a cold heart. She was patient with others,
but not herself, and became upset if others implied she was stupid. She would
take time to evaluate a situation to decided whether or not it was worth
speaking up and it would take a lot to make her angry. She expressed that her
self-confidence wasn’t great and had fear of not succeeding. She had had a
number of long-term relationships with men, none of which were totally
satisfying and she wondered whether she was cut out for long-lasting
relationships. When asked about food desires, she loved hard, cold ice cream
and carrots, and hated slimy foods. She had a stronger than average desire for
cold drinks. When questioned, she admitted to suffering from chronic
tonsillitis as a child and even now had occasional right submandibular
swelling.

We use the homeopathic computer program “MacRepertory” to help us analyze
our cases.

Here is a printout of the main symptoms and which remedies cover most of the
symptoms.

Symptoms are listed on the left and remedies at the top. The number
corresponding to “total” represents the total point value of the remedy in
covering all of the symptoms in the case. The numbers on the “rubrics” line
indicate how many of the specific symptoms (rubrics) in the case were covered
by the remedy.

If you know about homeopathic remedies, you can now study the case, then
turn to page ____.

This case appeared quite straightforward from a homeopathic point
of view. Here was a thin, shy, reserved, delicate woman with a chief complaint
of headaches due to an excessively demand- ing study schedule and accompanied
by lapses of memory. In the homeopathic literature, there is a term, “brain
fag”, which perfectly describes these symptoms as well as the
personality of this patient. That remedy is Silica, sometimes called Silicea,
and is made from the mineral, silica (flint). It is a wonderful and
far-reaching remedy with many applications. In this case, it applied
beautifully to the reserved, reticent nature of the patient, the headaches (one
of the most common complaints of a patient needing Silica), and to the marked
state of mental debility due to overexertion of the mind. Confirmatory symptoms
for Silica in this case were the consti-pation, glandular swelling and history
of otitis and tonsillitis, chilliness, general sensitivity, self-doubt, and her
reluctance to speak up for her ideas unless it was really important, even
though she did have strong ideas about things.

Looking at the MacRepertory analysis, you might ask, “Silica only came up
fourth, after Belladonna, Lachesis, and Sanguinaria. Why did you give it?” The
analysis helps us as homeo-paths to see which symptoms are covered by which
remedies. Then, it is up to us to evaluate which remedy to choose. As for
Belladonna, it is more common to have a right-sided, throbbing headache,
although she did have the characteristic Belladonna aggravation from noise and
pre-ferred to rest in a cool, dark place with the headache. Her reserved, shy
nature did not go along with the constitutional picture of Belladonna, which is
plethoric, easily angered, hot, and often has hormonal symptoms. The Lachesis
type headache is often experienced in the morning on waking or before the
menses, relieved at the moment of onset, and is most commonly left-sided. She
also lacked the common Lachesis symptoms of jealousy, hypertension, fear of
snakes, and dislike of tight clothing around the neck. The Bryonia type
headache is usually much worse from motion, which was true in this case, and
accompanied by irritability, which was not. So, even though Silica was the
third or fourth remedy of choice according to the analysis (Sanguinaria

is listed before Silica because of alphabetization but actually rates lower),
it was the remedy which best fit the case.

R.M. was given Silica 30c once daily. When she returned a month later, she
complained of no eyestrain headaches, but had a couple of her type l headaches
because her doctoral dissertation proposal deadline was approaching and she was
beginning to panic. Her mind seemed to be less dull and, overall, she was
beginning to feel more energetic. It was difficult to know at the time how
effectively the remedy had acted. We knew Silica to be a relatively slow-acting
remedy and decided to continue the Silica and see the patient again in a month.
At that time she reported that her energy was continuing to improve even though
the academic pressure had not let up. She continued the Silica for another
month, then stopped. Two months after stopping the remedy, she was not having a
problem with the headaches and described herself as more energetic and relaxed,
despite having a dental crown put in and being exposed to camphor, both of
which often antidote homeopathic remedies. Silica acted in this case just as we
expected it would. It is likely that she will need a single dose of Silica 200c
to prolong the effect of the remedy and we have instructed her to let us know
if her headaches return. She is quite pleased that she can pursue her demanding
academic schedule without being drained by headaches and mental
exhaustion.

Dr. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Dr. Robert Ullman are licensed
naturopathic physicians and are board certified in homeopathy. They are
President and Vice President of the International Foundation for Homeopathy
where they teach homeopathy to licensed health care professionals. They
practice in Edmonds, WA at 131 3rd Ave., N., Edmonds, WA 98020 and can be
reached at (206) 774-5599. Their new book, The Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic
Medicine
, is now available.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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