Managing Headaches

Some headaches, you just can’t avoid. Others are preventable, or at least more manageable.

The best thing you can do for headache management is keep a headache diary. Write down the time and conditions when you first notice your headache. Be sure to note how severe it was, whether or not you took medicine for it, and how long it lasted. By knowing more about the conditions that result in headaches, you may be able to avoid some of the triggers.

Maybe it’s something you ate. Maybe it’s bright light. Maybe you walked through the perfume section of a department store. Maybe your headache is caused by a combination of things! Knowing what fuels the pain can help you avoid or manage it!

Here are some other tips for managing headaches and migraines:

  1. Watch what you eat. Lots of foods have been blamed for causing serious head pain, but you can start by watching your reaction to the three most popular offenders: red wine, processed meats and other foods containing sodium nitrate, and MSG (monosodium glutamate). Dropping the big three from your diet could reduce your headache suffering. Then again, it could be something else entirely. I have a friend who used to get a migraine every time she eats beef. It turns out she was reacting to the hormones used in non-organic beef.
  2. Make sure you get enough magnesium in your diet. Whole grains and leafy greens are chock full of magnesium, which helps relax blood vessels and reduce the chance of generating migraine-level electric signals in the brain.
  3. And while we’re talking about food… make sure you eat regular meals. Avoiding trigger foods is good, avoiding meals is bad. Low blood sugar can give you a nasty headache. If you tend to wake up with a headache, try eating a piece of fruit before bed to help keep your blood sugar at a normal level.
  4. Be careful with caffeine. If you drink three cups of coffee every day, what happens when you go coffee-less one day? Chances are, you’ll end up with a whopper of a headache. Your body is missing that caffeine that it has gotten used to.
  5. Be careful with alcohol. Red wine and dark liquors can be headache triggers.
  6. Be careful with smoking. Even second-hand smoke can give you a killer headache.
  7. Get enough sleep. If your body is used to a particular sleep schedule, try to stick with it — even on the weekends. Your nervous system can be very sensitive to changes.
  8. Exercise to improve your body’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are the brain’s natural painkillers.
  9. Deal with stress. Don’t let it build up — it will only make your headaches worse. Find something you can do quickly and easily to de-stress; try going for a walk, getting a massage, or taking a reading break.
  10. Try acupressure. Rubbing your temples can help ease a headache.
  11. Try a cold pack. It won’t cure the headache, but it can help. Wrap a package of frozen veggies in a towel and lay down for ten minutes.