9 Natural Strategies for Headache Relief

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You know the feeling all too well. It’s 3 p.m., and you are sitting at your desk. Your eyes feel tired, and you get easily distracted. Slowly, you start to feel a dull pain creep up from the base of your neck, temples, jaw or eyes. You are getting a tension headache.

Headaches can be caused by chemical activity in the brain, nerves, blood vessels, or the muscles in your head or neck. Most commonly, they are caused by a combination of these things. They can cause pain on one or both sides of the head, in one particular location or radiate from one point all over your head. Headaches can be caused by stress, skipped meals, bad posture, alcohol, and sleep changes.

Primary headaches, including cluster headaches, migraines, and tension headaches, are nothing to worry about in most cases. Cluster headaches are very painful and can happen on one side of the head or one eye. They often occur in “attacks” and last from a few weeks to a few months with breaks in between. Migraines are a throbbing or pulsing that often causes sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, or vomiting. These headaches are also very painful and can last from hours to days. Lots of people experience warning signs that let them know that a migraine might be happening. The most common type of headaches are tension headaches, and the pain can range from mild to moderate. It is often described as feeling like you have a rubber band around your head.

If you’re tired of reaching for the pill bottle or just dealing with the pain, check out these natural ways to ease your headaches. If you still have a hard time managing the pain, the doctors at UnityPoint Clinic - Neurology can help. 

1. Drink More Water

A few studies have shown the effects of drinking more water on those that suffer from headaches and migraines. Scientists in the Netherlands discovered that drinking around seven glasses of water a day relieved headache pain for many of their patients. 

2. Exercise

Some people claim that exercising triggers headaches and migraines, but studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise can help prevent headaches. Researchers noted that exercise increases the natural pain relieving chemicals in your brain called endorphins. These chemicals may assist you in your quest to avoid taking too much medication. 

3. Specific Foods

Some studies have suggested that certain foods can help in preventing and helping headaches. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, have an anti-inflammatory property that can contribute to reducing headache pain. Potassium was also shown to have headache-relieving components, and can be found in potatoes and bananas.

4. Massages

The American Massage Therapy Association states that full-body massages can help relieve headaches, as well as arthritis, lower back pain and insomnia. You can do a self-massage to relieve pain and tension by placing your thumbs on your cheekbones by your ears and using your fingertips to rub in a circular motion from your temples to the middle of your forehead. 

5. Meditation

Meditation, the combination of calmness, relaxation, and balance, has been shown to help control headache symptoms. This practice quiets the mind, increases pain tolerance, and allows you to focus on your body without any outside distractions. The breathing also slows your heart rate and opens your blood vessels.

6. Stretching

Simple stretches and yoga have been shown to reduce tension-related headaches. The Huffington Post has a list of the best yoga poses for relieving headache pain.

7. Relaxation Techniques

Learning relaxation techniques can help you manage the pain of a headache and can also help you keep them from getting worse. Breathing exercises, which can vary for any problem, and guided imagery, the practice of finding your “happy place,” have both been proven to help with pain.

8. Heat and Ice

Both heat and cold have been shown to help reduce headache pain. Heat from a rice bag or heating pad increases the blood flow to your brain while cold from an ice pack decreases the blood going to your brain. Which you choose all depends on preference and what you think works best.

9. Caffeine

When taken with a pain reliever, caffeine has been shown to improve the effectiveness of pain medication by 40%. Many headache and migraine medications contain caffeine. While this isn’t an entirely natural strategy, it’s good to know when your headache doesn’t go away on its own.

There are some signs and symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • A headache that comes on without notice or suddenly becomes severe.

  • A fever or tightness in your neck with your headache.

  • Experiencing a seizure, changes in behavior, confusion, or loss consciousness.

  • A headache that started right after an injury or exercise.

  • If you have a headache for the first time and you experience weakness, numbness, or trouble seeing along with the headache.

  • If you get headaches often or your headaches are severe.

UnityPoint Clinic – Neurology offers many procedures, including things like Botox, that can ease the pain of headaches. Contact your primary care provider for a referral to a UnityPoint Clinic Neurologist.