Headaches are a Very Common Problem
People of all ages get headaches from time to time. They can cause unbearable pain along with nausea and, at times, vomiting.
Common causes include stress, tension, restlessness, sinus problems, migraines, lack of sleep and dehydration.
Many people reach for over-the-counter medicines to get rid of them. However, you can get instant pain relief using some easy and natural home remedies.
Your headache symptoms can help your doctor determine its cause and the appropriate treatment. Most aren’t the result of a serious illness, but some may result from a life-threatening condition requiring emergency care.
Headaches are generally classified by cause:
A primary headache is caused by over activity of or problems with pain-sensitive structures in your head. A primary headache isn’t a symptom of an underlying disease.
Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding your skull, or the muscles of your head and neck (or some combination of these factors) can play a role in primary pain. Some people may also carry genes that make them more likely to develop them.
The most common primary headaches are:
- Cluster headache
- Migraine(with and without aura)
- Tension headache(also known as tension-type headache)
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC), such as cluster headache and paroxysmal hemicrania
A few headache patterns also are generally considered types of primary headache, but are less common. These headaches have distinct features, such as an unusual duration or pain associated with a certain activity.
Although generally considered primary, each could be a symptom of an underlying disease. They include:
Chronic daily (for example, chronic migraine, chronic tension-type headache, or hemicranias continua)
- Coughing fits.
- Exhaustive Exercise
- After Sex
Some primary headaches can be triggered by lifestyle factors, including:
- Alcohol, particularly red wine
- Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
- Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Skipped meals
Sometimes you know exactly what’s causing that pounding in your skull. Other times, you’re blindsided.
Whether they are debilitating migraines or less-painful-but-still-annoying tension pain—are often set off or made worse by a key trigger, says Brian Grosberg, MD, director of the Inpatient Headache Program at Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.
Here, the seven most common pain provokes, and how to head off the hurt. (See your doctor if these DIY fixes don’t do the trick; for those plagued by headaches, prescription meds may help.
Stress accounts for 80 % of all migraines, according to a study in the journal Cephalalgia. That’s because it causes fluctuations in cortisol and adrenaline—the fight-or-flight hormones—which can lead to pain and nausea, says Sheena K. Aurora, MD, medical director of the Headache Center at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
Stress can also make you clench your jaw and neck muscles, causing neck pain that, in turn, can set off tension headaches.
Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and massage can help. Or consider a mind-body technique called biofeedback
The dip in estrogen’s that occurs just before your period can lead to migraines. Similar hormonal fluctuations can also trigger headache during pregnancy, peri menopause, and menopause.
If you experience migraines, you’ve probably tried a wide range of treatments to prevent the headaches and ease the pain: including acupuncture or biofeedback.
If you haven’t had any success yet, don’t give up! Here are five migraine remedies you probably haven’t tried—and may not even be aware of.
Curbing your allergies
About a third of people with allergies also have migraines, “When you have an allergic reaction, your body releases chemicals such as histamine and other substances that can trigger a headache,” explains Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
His research found a 50 percent reduction in migraines among people who treated their allergies.
The weather’s changing
Migraine sufferers may be more likely to be hit when temperatures are high, according to a study in the journal Neurology.
Shifts in barometric pressure (the density of the air in the atmosphere) may lead to sinus headaches, too.
For every 5-degree-Celsius rise in temperature, the risk of having a severe migraine goes up 7.5 percent, according to a report in the Harvard Gazette.
Migraine sufferers are also a third more likely to get a headache on days lightning strikes within 25 miles of their home, says a University of Cincinnati study.
Stay in air-conditioning during heat waves, and if you know a storm’s brewing, try to keep your other triggers to a minimum.
You didn’t sleep well
Insomnia is associated with low levels of the hormone serotonin. That causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate and activate the trigeminal nerve—the main nerve involved in migraines, Dr. Grosberg says—leading to inflammation and the release of pain-causing chemicals.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (even on weekends!), cut down on caffeine, and exercise regularly.
You’re eating the wrong things—or not eating enough
The most likely offenders: Foods that contain the amino acid tyramine (like red wine and aged cheeses), nitrates (hot dogs, deli cold cuts, and other processed meats), or the amino acid phenylalanine (chocolate). All three substances cause blood vessels to constrict and then expand, causing migraines.
Skipping meals triggers them, too, because the brain is hypersensitive to fluctuations in blood sugar, Dr. Aurora says.
Eat and drink water regularly, and make sure those meals high in protein to help keep you satiated and maintain blood sugar levels. It’s also crucial to figure out which, if any, foods bother you, and ban them from your diet.
When you get a tension headache, the only thing you care about is how to prevent another one.
That’s no surprise.
And it’s no surprise that you get these headaches either. They’re the most common type of headache.
You know the tell-tale signs:
- Dull, aching pain
- Tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head
- Tenderness of your scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles
If you get less than 15 per month, you have what doctors call episodic tension headache. If you get more than 15 per month, you have chronic tension headache.
Unlike migraines, tension headaches aren’t caused by genes.
The top cause: stress.
Other things, like not getting enough rest, poor posture, or depression, can make them worse.
How Can I Prevent Them?
You might not be able to stop every single one. But there are lots of things you can do to get fewer of them.
For starters, try some of these lifestyle changes:
Limit your stress. Try to plan ahead. Get, and stay, organized. Things that help you relax, like massage or meditation can also help.
Exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes, 3 times a week, is ideal. It eases stress and keeps you fit.
It also helps to stretch. Pay close attention to your jaw, neck, and shoulders. These are areas where we tend to hold a lot of tension.
Get enough sleep. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to deal with daily stress.
Improve your posture. A strong stance can help keep your muscles from tensing. When you stand, hold your shoulders back and your head level.
Tighten your belly and buttocks. When you sit, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor and your head and neck don’t slump forward.
Drink lots of water. If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to get a tension headache.
Drink several glasses of fresh, filtered water each day, even if you’re not thirsty. It also helps to eat foods that are naturally rich in water, like most fruits and vegetables.
Eat regular, balanced meals. Skipping a meal can cause a throbbing headache. Try to eat at the same times every day. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Reduce the amount of inflammatory foods in diet. For example reducing red meat maybe a good place to start. Its important during this process to increase plant protein and reduce animal protein.
Herbal supplements. Try implementing a range of herbs and nutrients to increase circulation and blood flow. The main ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, licorice, papaya contain antioxidants that protect against free radicals and cell damage.
Limit caffeine and alcohol. There is caffeine in many over-the-counter headache medicines, but it can trigger headaches.
Drink less coffee and tea, and fewer energy and soft drinks.
Keep a headache diary. Record the date, time and what you were doing or had eaten when you get a headache.
This will help you spot triggers. It’ll also help your doctor come up with a treatment plan.