In the past three months, nearly 50 million Americans have experienced a severe headache.
Some headaches are chronic, while others are triggered by stress or other tensions. Sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, nausea, all of these symptoms can accompany a headache. If you’ve had “one of those headaches” there is absolutely no forgetting the debilitating effects.
So what can we do to fight back against headache pain?
Most of us reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever when we “feel a headache coming on.” Those with chronic migraines are often given prescription medications by their physicians to help manage the condition.
If you’d rather go the non-medication route, or the over-the counter pills aren’t cutting it, try these other headache remedies.
In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted under the skin to realign the body’s flow of energy. This can help to reduce the pain and pressure associated with headaches. Research has found that acupuncture can be helpful for people with single-episode headaches, as well as those who suffer from chronic headaches.
Regular exercise like walking or swimming can reduce headache frequency and intensity. In one study, migraine patients who were not regular exercisers engaged in a 12-week indoor cycling program. Participants not only reduced their number of headaches but also experienced a decrease in their levels of discomfort when a headache did occur.
Avoid trigger foods
Nitrates and nitrites can trigger headaches and are found in processed meats like ham and roast beef. Be sure to ask for nitrate/nitrite-free meats and cheeses when ordering at your grocery deli counter. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) used as a flavor-enhancer in many processed and fast-foods, has been linked to migraines, along with several other chronic health issues. Caffeine, alcohol, and aspartame are also common headache triggers for many people.
Heat and cold
To alleviate the shooting neck pain and tightness that can accompany a headache, apply heat to the back of the neck. If your pain is more pulsating, and you can literally feel the blood pounding in your head, try applying an ice pack to your temples. The goal is to reduce the throbbing by lowering the temperature of the blood passing through that area.
For temporary relief, try rubbing your temples or having your spouse or a friend massage your head, neck, and shoulders for you. As frequent professional massages are likely not in the budget for most of us; see if your local college or university has a massage therapy program. They are usually always looking for volunteers for the massage students to work with, and charge little to nothing for a session.
In one study, people with migraines who had one massage per week for six weeks had less frequent migraines and better sleep than the control group who did not receive massages.
Meditation & Relaxation Exercises
Relaxation and meditation techniques can be used to help manage chronic pain conditions, including headaches. Deep breathing, using mental imagery, listening to relaxing music, all can help the body and mind cope with pain.
Headache-relieving stretches can help relieve tension and discomfort. Try gently rolling your neck in a circle, doing shoulder shrugs, stretching your arms above your head, and touching your toes.
Try to hold the stretch for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Repeat each stretch three to five times. Shoot for stretching twice a day; in the morning to help wake the body, and in the evening before bed to help you relax. You can also stretch at your work desk to help loosen tight muscles and refresh the mind.
Sometimes headaches can be brought on by dehydration. The next time you get a headache, try drinking a large glass or two of water. Wait 20 minutes or so and see if the headache subsides.
Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to relax the body, mind, and spirit. In one study, after three months of yoga, participants experienced less painful and less frequent headaches than the control group. A side bonus, participants also noted reductions in anxiety and stress levels. Check out this link for easy yoga poses you can do at home in just 15 minutes!
Headaches can range from the annoying to the debilitating. We hope these tips help you conquer your next pain-in-the-head!