Headaches are a pain in the neck, sometimes literally. As someone who suffers from chronic headaches, I know the struggle of living with daily aches and pain. I also know a few tips and tricks of relieving a headache without popping over-the-counter pain medication.
Why should you cut back on the pain meds? Well they could be causing more headaches. If you find yourself taking dose after dose of medication to fight ever-increasing pain, you may be causing a rebound headache. This occurs when long-term pain medication use actually triggers headaches.
Fear not, you're only at risk of rebound headaches if you have a headache disorder like myself. Speak to your doctor if you're getting frequent headaches more than once a week. You don't have to live with constant pain, there are plenty of ways to find relief.
Onto the herbal treatment. If you don't have medication on hand or maybe you dislike turning to pain medication until the last resort, these should help you find more natural support.
First, you need to figure out what kind of headache you have. There are a few different causes and identifying them offers you the quickest and easiest solution. After that, it's a matter of finding what works for you.
This may not come as a shock but a lot of of us don't drink enough water. It's hard getting the eight recommended glasses in. If you feel a headache coming on, drink water. Honestly, drinking water is the first step to relieving any type of headache because chances are you're dehydrated if you're suffering from pain.
If you hate or are bored of water, and who can blame you, flavored water or some with fruit in it is a great way to trick yourself into drinking more. Tea is also a great solution.
If your pain extends down to your neck and shoulders you probably have a tension headache. While not all causes for these are known, stress seems to be a trigger. Stress also triggers a number of other things, regular headaches included. It figures that your body would punish you in your time of need.
Fight back with essential oils
. As explained in the linked article, smell has a huge impact on our cognitive senses and certain ones may help relieve your pain. Whether you set up a diffuser in the same room or add some drops to a cool, damp cloth and place it across your forehead, this is a great way to calm your pain without the need of pills.
Scents you should look for:
Take a Breath
You may not think sinuses are the culprit behind your pain unless you're clearly suffering from a sinus infection but they don't always come with a fever and running nose. Allergies and sinus congestion can hide behind a headache that not even pain relievers can touch. The cause is nasal inflammation. If you feel pressure in your cheeks close to your nose and in your forehead, it's a sinus headache.
The good news is these are easily remedied once identified. Peppermint, chamomile
and ginger teas
are great for sinuses. The steam clears airways and the scents help relieve the pressure much like aromatherapy all while hydrating and calming.
Another simple fix is a neti pot
. This increases the drainage and reduces the inflammation that causes the head pain pressure. Easy to use with a warm water saline solution, you can clear the congestion without the use of over-the-counter drugs.
Enjoy a Soak
A new study
suggests that hot arm and foot baths reduced headache pain and frequency for chronic migraine patients. This is for migraines and headaches caused by the nerves. While there's still a lot to study, cold massages also had a great effect on the treatment of headaches. If nothing else, try taking a bath
. Warm water will force your body to regulate as well and increase circulation. But be careful, you can actually cause a headache if you soak too long or in too hot of water. Make sure not to get dehydrated with bath salts, either.
Unfortunately, women are susceptible to hormone imbalance during their menstrual cycle. Surprising absolutely no one, this causes headaches. While the ultimate cure to PMS has yet to be found, you can fight off the strain with herbal solutions like tea, essential oils and magnesium
. Some studies
suggest that low magnesium levels could trigger headaches and migraines during menstrual periods, so taking an oral magnesium supplement
15 days prior to the start of menstruating could help alleviate your pain.
That being said, if you are suffering from a headache or migraine every month during or around your period, talk to your doctor about estrogen therapy or birth control. Both have been researched to have helped regulate hormone levels and prevent debilitating migraines during the menstrual cycle.
Long days at the office, in front of a computer or just in bad lighting can cause problems even for people with perfect vision. If your headaches come with dry, irritated or tired eyes, you may be suffering from eye strain. Poor lighting like from fluorescent lights or over-exposure to computer or phone screens could be straining your vision
and subjecting them to blue light which we find harder to process. While you can't always replace the office lighting with mood lamps, you can take breaks from your computer screen. Remember to look at something in the distance every half hour or so to let your eyes rest and adjust. Eyebright
and other eye vitamins
are also good for keeping up with your eye health and cutting down on the brain ache. You can read more about all of that here
Sometimes you can't find the cause of your headache - it just feels like your head is swollen. There is a lot of research into exactly what causes headaches and the results are all over the board. Inflammation is a popular culprit, though. So when in doubt, try Feverfew
Feverfew has been studied
and found to be effective in calming inflammation. Whether this is why it's so effective on headaches or it has some other great herbal quality, I'm not qualified to say. It's been around since the ancient Greeks as an herbal remedy and hasn't gone out of style yet. Take it orally or in tea for natural relief.
While coffee causing dehydration is a myth, it can cause headaches. If you haven't had your caffeine fix in a while and that nagging headache has been around since your usual coffee time, that's probably the reason.
Caffeine is a highly-addictive stimulant. Headaches are a symptom of withdrawal if you're a heavy coffee or tea drinker. I hate to bad talk your coffee fix (I'm a gold card Starbucks holder myself), I'm just stating facts. For quick relief, grab any caffeine-rich beverage.
Funny enough, caffeine is also said to help with migraine pain. If you're only a moderate caffeine addict, it can actually help the brain during a migraine attack according to doctors Robert Shapiro and Robert Cowan
. So if you have nothing else on hand, grab some coffee.
If you're sick of caffeine headaches and want to break the habit, check out this guide
. I can't promise it'll stop your headaches but it may save you coffee money.
All in all, fighting headaches doesn't have to be a struggle. We have a tendency to dismiss them as minor inconveniences, though. Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong so listen up. Take the time to treat that pain like you would a cold and try not to push through it. It could make it worse.
See your doctor about your headache if you:have trouble speaking, seeing or walkingget nauseous or start vomitingfeel numbness on one side of your bodyhave a headache for longer or that is worse than usualexperience a headache once or more a weekexperience a migraine more than once a month
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