Between a multitasking culture, work and home stresses, pollutants and irritants in the air, and how easy it is to get overwhelmed, Americans are quite prone to headaches. In fact, approximately 45 million of us experience chronic headaches on a regular basis, and up to 30 million have to manage the extreme pain caused by migraines. Seventy-five percent of Americans who suffer from migraines are female, which is an unfortunate statistic with reasoning still somewhat unknown. Regardless of the severity, it seems most people in our country experience a headache every day.
There are three main families of headaches, including tension, vascular, and organic.
Tension headaches are the most common sort of headache and cause a dull, nonthrobbing pain, typically experienced with tightness in the scalp or neck. They can stem from a number of sources including depression and everyday stresses like bad traffic and loud children.
Vascular headaches include a more severe throbbing and piercing sensation and are incredibly painful. Featured in this family are cluster and migraine headaches. While the trigger of cluster headaches is unknown, they can start from large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes. As migraines are more common, more research has been done on them, and triggers point to genetics, diet, stress, menstruation, and irritants in the environment including cigarette smoke.
Organic headaches are less often experienced, where pain is increasingly exacerbated and other symptoms follow. An organic headache may be accompanied by vomiting, lack of coordination, changes in speech or personality, or visual impairments. Triggers are more severe health problems such as tumors, infections, or diseases affecting the eyes, ears, nose, and brain.
Treating your headache effectively at home will depend on identifying the cause of your headache. Sinusitis, an infection affecting the sinus cavities, is also a large source of head pain and discomfort.
How to Treat a Headache at Home
You can try to rid yourself of head pain caused by stress with a simple relaxation technique to ease your muscles and tension. Within a matter of minutes spent in a comfortable, quiet space, you can reduce your pain immensely. Just make sure you have somewhere to go where you can be comfortable and quiet, away from noise, distractions, and people.
This technique, progressive relaxation, involves alternately tensing and releasing the tension in each muscle or muscle group from one end of your body to another. When attempting to relieve or prevent a headache, it is best to concentrate on the muscles from your forehead to your shoulders. Intentionally tense the particular muscle or muscle group as tightly as possible, hold for several seconds, and then release the tension so to relax the area slowly. Afterwards, move to the next muscle or group and do the same process. Use the process below to especially relax the headache region, making sure to breathe slowly and deeply while isolating these areas.
- Furrow your brow, then release the muscles in your forehead.
- Tightly squeeze your eyes shut, then slowly open them.
- Smile widely, then let your face muscles relax.
- Clench your jaw, then let it drop slowly.
- Push your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then allow it to fall back into place.
- Tightly press your lips together, then let go.
- Press your head against the back of your chair or the floor, then relax.
- Lift your shoulders as close to your ears as possible, then let them drop.
If your symptoms seem migraine-esque, with much sensitivity to light, nausea, concentrated pain on one side of the head, and blurred vision, finding a dark room to rest in may help reduce pain. Bright lights of any sort can cause headaches, including computer screens, televisions, and fluorescent bulbs. If this is a frequent trigger for you, consider wearing tinted glasses or other ways to filter light and reduce glare.
Recline and rest
Closing your eyes in a horizontal position for half an hour or more is quite possibly one of the best ways to treat painful headaches. Certain types of headaches, like migraines, necessitate sleep to stop the pain. Catching your headache early is one of the best ways to prevent it from worsening – so the sooner you can lie down, the higher likelihood that your headache will disappear.
Applying a cold compress to your head, such as a washcloth submerged in ice-cold water or an ice pack, can greatly alleviate your pain. There is also a product known as a headache hat, which is an ice pack that surrounds the whole head you may want to invest in. Frozen gel packs are also convenient and conform to the shape of your head. Any item you choose works, but make sure you apply it within a short time frame from the start of your headache. Doing so will reduce your pain in about 20 minutes in most cases.
If the cold is uncomfortable (or unseasonable), or ineffective, try a warm washcloth instead. Place the compress over your eyes or on the site of the pain, and let it sit for about 30 minutes, stopping to warm it up as needed.
Stress, tension, and bad moods can all contribute to headaches or make them worse. The more positive your thoughts, the more likely you will be to reduce your head pain. If you feel your body preparing for crisis mode and getting more tense after an upsetting incident with someone – make yourself think about something happy or enjoyable. Giving your mind space to relax will help you find a better solution to the problem, think more clearly, and avoid the physical pain that ensues.
Monitor your tension
In addition to thinking good thoughts, check for muscle tension such as jaw tightness, brow furrowing, fist clenching, and even crossing your arms, which tenses your neck and shoulders. Each of these can lead to and worsen a headache. If you find yourself doing any of these activities, stop, relax your muscles, and breathe deeply a few times.
Consistent sleep schedule
When you sleep in too much, you can create a higher likelihood of getting migraines or cluster headaches. Stay regular in the time you go to bed and wake up in the morning to prevent headaches and adjust to a better natural rhythm.
Nausea is a side effect with many types of headache. If you allow your stomach to become more upset, the gastric juices may make it more difficult to absorb active ingredients in OTC analgesics and prescriptions for your headache. Drink peach juice, apricot nectar, or flat cola to improve your condition. Using OTC nausea reducing drugs such as Dramamine can also help.
Quit or reduce your habits
Smoking is known to start headaches and make them worse, notably with cluster headaches. Quitting can be just the right thing for ending the pain. Alcohol consumption is also a cause of headaches of all sorts, and drinking more than your usual amount can certainly cause dehydration paired with headache. Even a small amount of certain drinks can lead to a headache for some people, including dark alcoholic drinks like red wines, brandy, scotch, and beer, which contain lots of tyramine – an amino acid that can start a headache for those who are sensitive. Others are also sensitive to histamines in beer and wine, so be careful if you’ve noticed a correlation between drinking and head pain.
Lower your caffeine intake
Caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia and muscle tension, so if you notice your intake affecting your physical well-being, cut back a bit. Gradually lower the amount of caffeine you consume (recommended to eliminate about a half-cup of coffee per week until you are drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee per day, or the drink of your choice). Also consider what OTC medication you may take that includes caffeine to help you stress less.
Rub peppermint oil to the site of the pain. No evidence secures its effectiveness, but it may help alleviate some pain.
Though there is no concrete evidence of its effectiveness, many people advocate the use of fish oil to reduce inflammation. It works by restricting the blood vessels in your temples, and it has many other health benefits, so it’s worth a try. CoEnzymeQ10 taken at 300 mg daily can be effective in lowering head pain, also. Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin, has also been shown as a good preventative relief for migraines when taken at 400 mg daily. Butterbur, or petasites, is a German plant that has been proven to effectively treat migraine headaches, asthma, and nausea when take in pill form.
1. Discovery Health. Home Remedies for Headaches.
2. Fox News. 11 Home Remedies for Migraine Headaches.
3. Image: Cocktailfiesta.com