Dealing with chronic headaches is a big pain — literally. If you're tired of taking medicine every time you feel a headache coming on, here are seven lesser known ways to make that pain in your head disappear.
Whenever I feel a headache coming on, I immediately drink a large glass of water (or two) and wait a few minutes. Medical studies have shown that headaches are a sign of mild dehydration. Drink water throughout the day, starting with a large glass right when you wake up. Keep a water bottle with you in the car, at your desk, when you exercise and as you eat your meals. Add lemon or lime if you get tired of just plain water. Avoid too many sugary drinks.
There are various pressure points on your body that are known to relieve headaches. I've tried a few with good success. One is the fleshy part of your hand between your thumb and forefinger. With your other thumb and forefinger, press firmly on the pressure point for several seconds. Repeat several times as necessary. Rubbing your temples, the base of your neck, the bridge of your nose and between your first and second toes might also work. Experiment with various combinations until you find relief.
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries for many reasons. Using essential oils is a natural way to get headache relief. Peppermint oil, which is easily found in a store that carries natural foods, can be very effective. To inhale the scent, put two drops on a cotton ball in your hand and breathe in deeply for a few minutes. You can also diffuse the oil if you have a diffuser for this purpose.
Peppermint essential oil can be applied topically, but it needs to be diluted in a carrier oil (like apricot kernel or jojoba oil) so as not to irritate the skin. When applied to the neck or temples, this mixture can help stop a headache. A naturopath or aromatherapist can give you good advice on blending other oils and using essential oils safely. Some are not recommended for pregnant women or children.
Consider your caffeine use
If you are a heavy caffeine user, your headache may be due to caffeine abuse or missing your daily dose. Keep track of how often you drink coffee, tea, energy drinks or caffeinated soda. If you find yourself getting a headache and craving an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up, you may have a problem. It's fairly easy to wean yourself off of caffeine by cutting back, but you will have a headache for a few days as your body adjusts.
Chronic headaches can be caused by hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. If you have a headache but also feel shaky, hungry and irritable, pause and think when you last had a good, healthful meal. Even though your body feels like it needs a jolt of sugar, make sure you add in some protein as well.
If I'm having a hypoglycemic episode, I sometimes drink some orange juice or eat a banana, but I also have a spoonful of peanut butter or a string cheese to bring my blood sugar back up. Eating regular meals and snacks that are full of fiber, protein and complex carbs will keep both hypoglycemia and headaches at bay.
Another source of chronic headaches is tension in the neck and shoulders. The remedy for this is quite relaxing: get a massage. If your neck is very tight and painful or your mobility is limited, consider seeing a physical therapist to learn how to stretch and strengthen your neck so you don't hold tension there.
Many people have jobs where they sit at desks all day. Take a few minutes each hour to look at something besides your computer screen. This will reduce headaches caused by eye strain. You can also do simple stretches and loosening exercises to keep your neck, shoulders and back from getting stiff. Consider using an ergonomic chair and adjusting your desk area for minimum strain on your body.
Get some rest
It's hard to get out of bed and keep moving each day when you are tired. Even though it's often easier said than done, getting enough rest will help you get rid of your headaches. Many people benefit from a short nap in the afternoon. I perfected the eight-minute power nap in college and have been a fan ever since. If you get chronic headaches associated with being overtired, make sleep a high priority. Your overall health will improve greatly if you get enough sleep.
If you're someone who deals with chronic headaches, it's time to take action. Some headaches need to be brought to the attention of your doctor, particularly if you experience extreme pain, nausea and visual disturbances. For less severe but equally bothersome chronic headaches, find the source of your headaches and then seek a solution. Your body will thank you.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.