12 Ways to Prevent and Treat Headaches
Headaches can be caused by a long list of things from stress or lack of sleep to hormone changes, food sensitivities, or poor posture. Even too much physical activity can cause headaches! For most people, the pain and discomfort in the head, scalp, and/or neck that comes with headaches is tolerable, but for others, it’s unbearable.
Types of Headaches
Did you know that about 90% of all headaches are considered to be tension or muscular headaches? They’re commonly caused by stress, worry, tiredness, concentrating hard for long periods of time, illness, or fever. Fortunately, these headaches respond well to self-care.
The easiest way to tell if the headache you’re suffering from is a tension or muscular headache is to determine where the pain is. If you have a dull ache in your forehead, at the back of your head, or above your ears, and if you feel pain in your neck or shoulders, you probably have a tension or muscular headache.
Another common type of headache is a sinus headache, which is caused by pressure in the sinus cavities behind your cheeks, in your nose, and around your eyes. Pressure builds up when something interferes with fluid drainage in your nose causing pain. This can happen when you have a cold or upper respiratory infection, allergies, or other breathing problems. Sinus headaches can also occur after you swim in dirty or polluted water or travel on an airplane.
You’ll know you have a sinus headache if the pain is in your forehead, cheekbones, and nose. Another symptom of a sinus headache is increased pain in the morning as well as more pain if you bend over or touch your face. In addition, your nose could be stuffy.
Other common types of headaches are cluster headaches and migraine headaches. Both can be fairly debilitating, so consult with your healthcare provider if you think you suffer from either. For cluster headaches, the pain is sharp, burning, and intense and is usually on one side of your head or in/on the sides of your eyes. Your eyes might be watery, your eyelids might droop, and your pupils will look smaller. Typically, cluster headaches come in groups every day for a week or longer.
Migraine headaches occur when the blood vessels in your head either open too wide or close too tight. If you have a migraine, one side of your head will hurt more than the other, and you could feel seek to your stomach or vomit. Noise might bother you, and light hurts your eyes. You might even see spots or flashes of light in zigzag patterns.
How to Prevent Headaches
The key to preventing headaches is avoiding things that trigger them. Triggers vary for everyone, so it’s a good idea to keep a headache diary to identify the causes of your headaches.
Track your eating, sleep, exercise, and other activities, so you can try to pinpoint what triggers your headaches. Futhermore, use your headache diary to become aware of your early headache symptoms so you can try to stop your headaches before they begin.
In addition to keeping a headache diary, use the six tips below for headache prevention:
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain consistent sleep hours (even on your days off).
- Cut down on your salt intake.
- Don’t smoke, and if you do smoke, quit.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- Don’t consume foods and drinks that are known to trigger your headaches.
Self-Care for Headaches
If your headaches aren’t linked to serious health problems, then self-care should provide some relief. There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that you can take for pain such as ibuprofen and naproxen. If your headaches don’t respond well to over-the-counter medications, then your healthcare provider may prescribe a medication specifically used to treat the type of headaches you suffer from.
Of course, medications aren’t the only way to treat headaches. The following six self-care techniques can make a big difference in the intensity and duration of your headaches:
- Rest in a quiet, dark room with your eyes closed.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Place a cold or warm washcloth over the area that hurts. Use whichever temperature feels better for you. Different headaches respond to hot versus cold.
- Rub the base of your skull with your thumbs. Work from the ears toward the center of the back of your head. Finally, rub gently along the sides of your eyes, shoulders, jaw, and neck.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing.
- Take an over-the-counter or prescription medication as directed by your healthcare provider for pain, but be sure to take it at the onset of your headache. It’s easier to stop a headache before it gets started!
Need More Help?
If you need more help to manage your stress or other triggers and lifestyle issues that cause headaches, working with a certified health coach can help! Click here to schedule a free 15-minute Talk to a Coach session and get started on your journey to feeling better than ever.
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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.
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