(Note: This is a very long article, but it includes a ton of great tips and remedies to help you manage your headaches and migraines!)
Nearly everyone has experienced a headache. They can be categorized as migraine, sinus and tension.
You can fight them by taking over-the-counter medication, or you can follow the tips and remedies below to help prevent them.
A migraine is a splitting headache that seems to attack you out of the blue. It is actually a result of changes in the blood vessels which supply blood to the brain and these changes trigger the pain.
Migraines affect 10 – 15% of the population. They usually start in childhood or adolescence and continue through middle age.
Once the pain of a migraine sets in, it's sheer agony. It's almost as if one side of your head is being ripped off.
There are two main types of migraine, the classic migraine and the common migraine. Both the classic and the common kind can occur as often as several times a week or as rarely as once every few years.
For some people, it's possible to predict the occurrence of a migraine. For example, there is a greater tendency for a migraine near the days of menstruation or every Saturday morning after a stressful work week.
Although many sufferers have a family history of migraines, the exact hereditary nature of this condition is not known. People who get migraines are thought to have an inherited abnormality in the regulation of blood vessels. The following factors often act as triggers that set off the migraine.
Stress is one of the major factors that can contribute to the onset of a migraine. It may not be possible for you to get away from the cause of stress, particularly if it is something connected with your job, but you may want to consider alternatives in your work environment.
Anger can trigger a migraine as well. It would be good for short-tempered people to learn ways of controlling their anger. One solution is counting to 10. The next time you get angry count to 10 very slowly before you really blow your lid. By the time you get to 10, you should have cooled down.
Both physical and mental fatigue can lead to a migraine, so do not push yourself too much. Enough is enough. When your body starts giving you signals that it has had enough, listen to it and stop whatever you are doing. Just bear in mind that a little more productivity in one day is not worth losing the productivity of the next couple of days.
Sinus problems give rise to headaches. The sinuses are small spaces in the facial bones just below the facial skin. The spaces are concentrated in the nasal region, temples and around the eyes.
Sometimes, due to infection, these spaces get inflamed or filled with mucus and infected. This leads to the headache that is the result of sinusitis. There are many causes for sinusitis which can include allergy, a deviated nasal septum, severe cold, and acute ongoing infection.
Tension headaches are also common in many people. Stress and anxiety often cause tension headaches. The moment a person gets tense about something, they develop a tension headache. Insufficient sleep, anxiety, problems, and worrying all give rise to a tension headache.
The good news is most headaches are preventable. Follow the tips below and you will be amazed at how easily you can prevent future headaches.
Do not read when you are lying down.
If you read in bed, prop up your head with at least two pillows. Pillows give support to your head and neck so that your head is in a partially raised position. This will cause less harm to your eyes and your head in general.
You need a well-lit room to read.
When you're reading, the source of light must be behind your head, not in front of your eyes. This is also true when you're working on a computer. The source of light should be from behind.
Do not hold your book too close to your eyes. Your eye muscles have to strain a lot to focus on close objects. The book should ideally be at chest level.
Do not hold your book too far away. Holding your book too far away is just as bad as holding your book too close. Remember to keep it at chest level. Many bookstores have reading stands that will enable you to keep your book position at the right level.
If you find it difficult to read, get your eyes tested by an optometrist. Vision problems are a major cause of headaches.
Be careful of the print size of the book you are reading. If the print of the book is too faint, or if the font size is too small, you need a new book. Most libraries have large-print versions of books. If this is not available, use a magnifying glass or wear magnifying glasses.
Do not read in moving vehicles. Many people try to read on a bus or train, however, curves and bumps in the road can cause headaches and even motion sickness. The constant movement of the vehicle force your eyes to continuously adjust and readjust to the print.
This continuous adjustment and readjustment is very bad for your eyes. At the end of the journey you are bound to end up with a headache.
The light from your TV or PC monitor is not enough to read. Some people tend to read using the light from the TV or a computer. This light is not bright enough.
While doing work that requires you to strain your eyes, take breaks every five minutes. This is especially true for jobs like needle work and work involving electronic gadgets.
Use an anti-glare screen to cut out the radiation while working on your computer, or wear glasses that have an anti-glare coating on the lenses.
If your job requires long hours in front of the computer, you may want to consider buying a special lamp that clips on the monitor.
A lamp reduces the eye-strain caused by staring at the computer screen, and thus reduces headaches.
Eat plenty of carrots. They are rich in Vitamin A which is required for proper eyesight.
Never look directly at the sun.
While outdoors during the summer, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses. The sun's ultraviolet rays and radiation can be a leading source of headaches.
Below are some tips for choosing sunglasses:
• The sunglasses must cover your eyes completely.
• Sunglasses may be any color, but make sure they block ultraviolet radiation.
• Make sure your sunglasses are always clean and free from dust and smudges.
• The best way to choose your sunglasses is to put them on and stare at your face in a mirror. If you can see your eyes in the mirror, the glasses are not good enough.
Do not work continuously on your computer for more than half an hour. Computer screens emit radiation, so the less time in front of the computer, the better.
The best rest that you can give your eyes is staring at a distant object. Or you can try massaging your eyes gently.
When you massage your eyes:
• Take care to use only the soft pads of your fingers.
• Do not use your finger tips because your nails could give you scratches.
• The best fingers to massage your eyes with are the three middle fingers, which are the fingers between your thumb and the little finger.
• Place the pads of your fingers on your eyebrows and gently press down.
• Let your fingers roll down around your eyes making gentle circling movements.
• The motion should start from your eyebrows and end at the corners of your eyes near the bridge of your nose.
• Repeat this two or three times and feel your eye muscles relax.
If you feel your eyes are straining, take a break. The best relaxation for your eyes is staring at a distant object, or just keeping them closed. Your eyes will give you signs when they are straining.
You'll find that you are getting tired sooner, your eyes may start to water or you might notice that you have to squint your eyes in order to get a better view.
Never watch television while lying down. The best position to watch television is sitting, preferably with your eyes at the same level as the television screen.
Do not sit too close to your TV. It is easier for your eyes to focus if you're around five feet or more away from the screen.
Your TV should be in a room that's properly lit. Watching television or working on the computer in the dark unnecessarily strains your eyes.
The best place for a light is behind you, positioned so the glare does not reflect on the screen.
Try to blink deliberately while working on the computer. If you don't blink, they become dry, they hurt and ultimately you'll get a headache.
Breathing exercises help release the toxins in your brain. The human body takes in a lot of toxic substances. These toxins have to be released on a continuous basis or they accumulate in the body and cause sickness and disease.
Sit comfortably so there is no strain to any part of your body and close your eyes. Breathe in deeply and feel the air filling up your lungs until they can’t take any more. Conjure up images of the air circulating throughout your body and reaching every cell, bathing it with oxygen. Then hold your breath for a few seconds and very slowly exhale.
Repeat this exercise at least 10 times.
For the second part of the exercise, keep one nostril closed with your index finger. Breathe in deeply and slowly. Hold the air in for a second or two, then release it.
While you are breathing out, picture all the toxins being released from your head and your brain.
Repeat this exercise with the other nostril closed and alternate between the nostrils at least 10 times.
Use a pillow that is not too thick to rest your head. If the pillow that you are using is too thick, you will be straining you neck muscles when you are asleep.
If the neck muscles are taut for too long, they will become stiff and this often precipitates a headache.
Find out if you have any allergies, as they can cause headaches.
Dry your hair completely after a shower. Any excess water left on your scalp can soak into your head and give you a headache.
Do not blow dry your hair if at all possible. The heat from the blow dryer can trigger a headache.
If you have long hair and you have to blow dry it, keep the blow dryer at least a foot from your hair and keep it on warm, not hot.
When you're in the sun, protect your head using a hat or a cap. The sun has many health benefits, but if you expose yourself directly to it, you are likely to end up with a headache.
The heat from the sun causes vascular changes that alter the delicate balance of the fluid in your brain. This activity can cause a headache.
Keep your head covered in the rain. If you get wet, dry your head as soon as you get inside.
Avoid inhaling car exhaust and second-hand smoke as much as possible.
Avoid hair styles that pull your hair tightly.
Try to keep your mind relaxed and worry free. Listening to music or taking a nap can help clear your mind.
If you feel stressed, try to relax. Scented candles, warm baths, and soothing music may help you relax.
Try to get a good night’s sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that America is on the verge of a poor sleep epidemic, characterized by the following eye-opening statistics:
• 64% of American adults get less than the eight hours of sleep that experts recommend to maintain optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.
• One-third of the US population says they get less sleep now than they did five years ago
• One-half of Americans have experienced insomnia (sleeplessness)
• Drowsiness due to lack of sleep interferes with the daily activities of 37 percent of all adults.
Do not oversleep. Oversleeping is just as bad as not getting enough sleep. If you sleep too long, you'll wake up and feel “blurry” and likely get a headache. Our body tells us when it has had enough sleep. When you first wake up, get up.
Try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown this is the requirement for most healthy adults.
Don't take sedatives. Many of them are addictive and their active ingredients will eventually stop working for you.
Sedatives also affect the time you wake up. You might get a good night’s sleep, but you seldom wake up refreshed.
Each time you get a headache do not automatically reach for your aspirin. Some headaches go away by themselves. Do not make your body dependent on aspirin.
Try massaging your temples. Massaging your temples gently stimulates the circulation of blood and relaxes the muscles of the forehead and temples.
Touch therapy is a new technique for curing headaches. Research suggests that our bodies react to the healing touch of others.
When we were babies our mother’s touch was loving and reassuring. New born babies are able to distinguish between a mother’s touch and the touch of a stranger.
As we grow, we delight in the encouraging pats and caresses of our parents and teachers. As we grow older, we exchange hand shakes and hugs as a way of expressing warmth and compassion.
So when someone is ill, the touch of another person, especially if it is a person who really cares for you, can help relieve your pain.
Try massaging the nape of your neck, your shoulders and neck muscles. Also massage the muscles in the web between your thumb and the rest of your fingers.
The entire nervous system, the blood vessels, the skeletal and muscular systems are all interconnected. So if you can identify certain nodal points of the body and apply the right pressure there, you can get relief from a headache.
Do not wash your hair in hot water. It can trigger a lot of vascular changes that cause headaches.
The heavy fragrances in some perfumes and room fresheners can give you a headache.
Incense and smoke is not good for you. Incense smoke contains alkaloids that cause vascular changes that often result in a headache.
Too much noise is bad for you. In fact, sound pollution is one of the main causes of headaches.
Keep your hair cut short, or no longer than shoulder length. Excessively long hair puts extra strain on the top of your head as the weight of your hair pulls on your scalp.
Try steam inhalation. This works very well if you have sinus problems. Steam inhalation is an excellent way of clearing your sinus cavities. If you have an infection, steam inhalation can be very soothing.
Menthol vapors can offer some relief too. They can help clear your sinuses, similar to steam inhalation. Dissolve a balm or ointment in hot water and inhale the vapors.
Drink plenty of water. If you aren't drinking enough water you can suffer from a dehydration headache. Make sure you are drinking at least 8 glasses of water every day.
Do not let water get into your ears.
Cool your eyes with slices of cucumber. It's relaxing and helps cool your body if you've been out in the sun.
Eye exercises are good for you.
Below you can find tips on how to exercise your eyes:
1. Stare straight ahead at a distant object.
2. Close your eyes and let any glimmers of light fade away.
3. Now open your eyes and look straight up for a few seconds.
4. Now move them down and hold them there for a few seconds.
5. Next, move them to the left.
6. Then move them to the right.
7. Finally, bring them towards your nose.
8. Repeat this exercise three or four times a day.
Apply a face pack. They're a wonderful way of de-stressing yourself. You can get them at many grocery stores and beauty supply stores.
You can make your own face pack at home using things that are 100% safe on your skin. One of the best face packs that I have come across is effective for a sinus headache as well as a tension headache is, a yogurt face pack.
Apply a thin coating of yogurt on your forehead and on the region around your eyes, being careful not to get it into your eyes. Let it dry and then apply one more thin coat. Lie down on your back for 5-10 minutes. Then wash it off.
De-stress yourself through meditation. It calms your mind as you learn to observe your surroundings. It helps you to focus your mental energy on one thing at a time.
The human mind is a virtual power house of energy, but often this energy goes un-channeled or untapped.
The Mind Settling Procedure:
1. Sit comfortably in silence with your eyes closed for 30 seconds.
2. Perform a brief body massage. Some meditation traditions recommend that the massage be executed slightly differently for men and women.
3. The massage begins by gently pressing your hands against your face, then upward on the top of the head, back down the neck, and towards the heart. All massage elements move towards, and finish at the heart.
4. Men continue by gently using the left hand to press and massage, first the right hand, and then up the arm, and back down towards the heart. Again, this is all done with the left hand.
5. Women do the same, but they begin by massaging the left hand and arm (back toward the heart) with the right hand. Then, both men and women switch arms and massage the other hand and arm, again, back toward your heart. Then men continue by massaging their right foot and leg, upward toward their heart. This is done by pressing with both hands gently.
6. Then, massage your left foot and leg, again, upward toward the heart. Women do the same, but they begin with their left foot and leg, and move upward toward the heart, before repeating the process for the right foot and leg. This is best done with your eyes closed. The total time for the massage is about a minute.
7. Sit comfortably with your back straight and perform a breathing technique called “pranayama.” Begin with 10 seconds of fast pranayama.
8. Close your nostrils, one at a time, with your thumb and middle fingers, alternately. Men use their right hand to do this, while women use their left. The mechanics of the procedure are similar to slow pranayama (see below), except that the breaths are very short and rapid.
9. This works best with your eyes closed. The procedure should be effortless and easy. If you experience problems like dizziness or hyperventilation, get personal instruction in this technique.
10. While sitting comfortably with your back straight, perform nine to 10 minutes of slow pranayama. This is done similarly as with the fast pranayama, but using normal breaths, closing one nostril at a time after each outward and inward breath.
Be sure to complete both the outward and inward breath before switching nostrils. On exhaling, let the breath flow out naturally, don't force it. The inhaling breath should take about half the time as the exhaling breath.
11. Hold your breath after inhaling for a brief moment, a second or two, while alternatively closing the other nostril with the other finger, and prepare to exhale. The entire procedure should be effortless and gentle. If you feel you need more air, simply take deeper breaths, but do not hyperventilate. You should breathe normally, just alternating nostrils after exhaling and inhaling. This is done with the eyes closed.
12. Sit quietly and comfortably for five minutes with your eyes closed.
Listen to soft music, preferably without earphones.
Prayer is an excellent way of de-stressing yourself.
Breathe plenty of fresh air.
Quit drinking. Reduce your alcohol consumption to only two to three glasses a week. If headaches persist, try to quit completely.
Tips on how to avoid a hangover headache. A hangover usually happens after the consumption of alcohol.
Try the following to eliminate a hangover headache:
• The hangover headache is usually the result of dehydration, so drink more water.
• Dilute your alcohol with water instead of soda. The more water you drink, the more hydrated you are and the less likely you are to have a headache.
• Never start drinking on an empty stomach
• Drink a glass of milk one or two hours before you leave for the party.
• Munch on snacks while you are drinking.
• Cheese is good to prevent a hangover headache.
• For every ounce of alcohol you consume, drink some water
Don't get frustrated. When you feel yourself losing control, take a step back and take 10 deep breaths. Frustration can easily bring on a tension headache.
Color effects us on a psychological level. Reds and oranges invoke tense angry feelings, but light pastels in hues of green and blue have a calming effect. The more calm you feel, the less likely you are to get a headache.
Bad teeth can cause headaches. If you have a tooth infection or other oral problem, it can cause a headache.
Posture. If you don't sit properly, you can cramp the muscles in your neck and shoulders.
The following tips will help you with proper posture:
• Never slouch in your chair.
• Try to sit as erect as possible.
• Instead of bending over, try to hold your work up, so your neck is straight.
• Get a writing board.
If you continue to have problems with your posture, you may consider buying a lumbar support pad, a doughnut or other devices designed to help you sit correctly. These are available in office stores and medical supply stores.
Rinse your hair before you go to bed. If you have gel, hairspray, or other hair products in your hair, it can seal the pores of your scalp and cause a headache.
The perfume from the products can also irritate your nasal passages as you sleep, causing you to wake up with a headache.
Aerosols cause sinus infection in many people, so try to use products that do not create a fine mist.
If you wear glasses or contacts, have your eyes checked periodically. Slight alterations in your vision can cause headaches.
If you have a family history of poor eyesight, get yourself examined periodically. Most vision defects are hereditary, so if one of your parents started using glasses at an early age, there is a 25% chance that you might have the same problem as well.
Never shake your head violently.
A gentle shake of your head, however, can tell you if you do have a sinus infection.
Another method is to try bending over. The moment you lower your head, you'll feel like your head is a bowling ball.
Avoid irritating people. Anger and irritation are major causes of headaches.
Avoid stuffy rooms.
Make sure your bedroom is properly ventilated. Even if the A/C is turned on, turn on a fan to circulate the air.
Dip cotton in iced water and apply it to your forehead. This is soothing, but do not leave the cotton on for too long.
Crying is not good for a headache.
Do not skip meals. Eat at fixed times. Hunger causes migraine attacks. When you miss meals, you are actually depriving your body of energy. The body seeks out alternative energy sources and you often end up with a headache.
If you have a sinus problem, blow your nose often. Blowing your nose helps to get rid of the mucus that accumulates in the sinuses. It is great if you can blow your nose after a steam inhalation.
Rinse your sinus cavities with a neti pot. If your sinuses are blocked, the pressure from the extra mucus can cause a headache.
If you have an allergic condition like a dust allergy, change your air filters regularly, and consider buying special filters for dust allergies.
If your dust allergy is severe, wear a dust mask.
Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) and caffeine can trigger a migraine.
Eating fermented and pickled food can lead to headaches.
Contraceptive pills can trigger headaches because they interfere with hormonal changes. (Then again, last time we checked, screaming babies trigger headaches as well.)
Maintain a headache diary. Record the food and drink you consume, weather conditions, stress and menstrual cycles.
Try to identify the causes that lead to a headache. Record how often and how frequent they are and whether they are related to any external condition like the weather or travel.
Consult a doctor about your headaches. Many people feel silly about going to a doctor with something as insignificant as a headache, but there is nothing insignificant about a headache.
Dress appropriately. If you work outside, dress for the weather. If you work inside, dress so you are comfortable while you're working.
While you're traveling allow your body to adjust to any time changes.
Know your sinus points and use acupressure or reflexology to treat your self and rid yourself of the pain.
The best thing about the acupressure or reflexology method is, it has no side effects, you can do it alone, and you can get almost instant relief.
1. First, locate your sinuses.
2. Lie down on a flat surface, without the support of a pillow.
3. Run your fingers gently over your face, taking note of the various rises and falls.
4. Let your fingers linger in the position above your eyes, but just below the eyebrow.
5. Feel the bone and follow it towards your nose. This is your first sinus point.
6. Now run your fingers down further until they reach the depressions on both sides of the nose, halfway between your eyes and your mouth. This is your second sinus point.
7. Now apply pressure with the pads of your fingers, not the tips, to both sinus points.
8. If it hurts, stop immediately.
9. If not, apply as much pressure as you can until it becomes uncomfortable.
10. Then let go and lie there for a minute experiencing the pain fading away.
11. Repeat this with the second sinus point.
12. If your sinuses are infected these regions will be slightly swollen.
Exercise is a good way to prevent headaches. It increases blood flow and oxygen supply to your cells.
Stretch every hour. Rub your hands and feet and the muscles of your neck to boost your circulation.
The following exercise will help you get rid of a tension related headache:
1. Place your right hand on the top of your head or let it rest on your forehead.
2. Gently turn your head to the right.
3. Place the palm of your left hand on the back of your neck and let your fingers locate any tight muscles.
4. When you have found a tight muscle, gently apply pressure on it using the soft pads of your fingers.
5. As you apply pressure, breathe in and hold the air for 10 to 20 seconds.
6. As you hold the air, continue applying pressure.
7. Concentrate on releasing the tension of that muscle.
8. In your mind, envision the toxins that were trapped in the muscle being released.
9. When you feel the muscle has relaxed, release your grip and breathe out through your mouth, feeling that all the toxins have been released from your body.
10. Repeat the exercise on the same side of your neck and try to find another muscle.
11. Continue until all the muscles on the left side are done.
12. Now repeat this exercise with right side of your neck, using your right hand this time.
Measure your migraine.
Your migraine can be measured in terms of the following criteria:
• Frequency: How often do you get a migraine?
• Intensity: How severe is the pain? You can measure this using a five-point scale. Zero stands for very little pain and five means that you have the worst pain that you have ever had.
• Duration: How long does the pain last? Does it go away by itself or do you have to go to sleep to get any relief?
• Medication: Do you have to take any medication before you get relief? What kind and how many?
Here are some exercises for a tension headache:
A tension headache comes from tight neck muscles. When muscles become tight, lactic acid accumulates in them.
Under ordinary conditions, when a muscle works glucose gets converted into carbon dioxide and water. The blood easily removes these two waste materials, but when a muscle has to work for too long or too hard, the cells don't have time to convert glucose into carbon dioxide and water. Instead, the glucose is converted into lactic acid.
The problem with lactic acid is, it restricts further movement of the muscles and results in muscular cramps. Applying a bit of pressure can help the muscles release the pent up lactic acid. When the neck muscles accumulate lactic acid it often results in a headache.
The exercise described below can help relieve your headache:
1. Stand in the shower with the spray directly on the back of your neck.
2. Turn your head slowly as far as you can to the left.
3. Stand like this for one or two minutes.
4. Repeat the exercise again, but turn your head to the right this time.
Take a 20-minute power nap during your lunch break. You will wake up refreshed and without as many worries.
Eat organic foods. Many foods contain pesticides and hormones that are not good for your body. Organic foods are safer for your body and reduce the number of foreign chemicals entering your bloodstream.
Now you can curb or eliminate your headaches. But even better, you can take preventative measures to ensure that you don't get headaches in the first place.
The treatments that have been recommended work effectively, but the list does not include every remedy available. If you try these remedies and you still get headaches, you should call your doctor.
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