Posted: Jul 5, 2021 / 10:00 am CDT CD
Updated: 06/29/2021 / 12:16 p.m. CDT

(Baptist Health) – Some headache pains can be prevented and treated with simple strategies.

When you have a headache, reaching for your medicine cabinet may seem natural.

However, medication is not the only option for headaches. Home remedies can also help relieve headaches. And lifestyle changes can help keep headaches away.

Alleviate the pain

The National Headache Foundation and other health experts suggest trying one of these treatments for headache relief:

Apply cold or heat. Cold helps relieve pain by narrowing swollen blood vessels and making nerve endings less sensitive. Heat increases blood flow to the head and neck muscles, helps muscles relax and reduces tension.

Most people with migraines prefer cold packs, while those with tension-type headaches or muscle contraction prefer warmth.

Use ice packs or ice for 15 minutes, then take a 15-minute break.

When using heat, be sure to keep the temperature moderate. Too much heat can cause muscle cramps or burns.

Get a massage. Massage can relieve headaches and muscle tension. Massage can also help prevent headaches by reducing stress and tension. You can get a massage from a licensed therapist or have a friend or loved one learn about trigger points and how to massage them.

Try biofeedback. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches you to control certain body functions and release tension, which can help you have fewer headaches. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Keep a headache away

A few simple lifestyle changes can help prevent future headaches:

Watch what you eat. Certain foods can cause headaches, including:

  • Aged cheeses such as cheddar, stilton and brie.
  • Chocolate.
  • Certain types of meat, such as processed, smoked or aged meat.
  • Fermented, pickled or marinated foods.

The following substances can also cause headaches:

  • Caffeine.
  • Alcohol.
  • Cigarette and cigar smoke.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a spice used in many foods.

Keeping a headache diary can help you determine if certain foods are triggering your headache.

Eat regular meals. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar and headaches, so try to eat regular meals. It can also be helpful to have smaller, more frequent meals instead of the usual three meals a day.

Assess your stress level. Although stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress can trigger headaches. So if you feel tension building up, take a break. Go for a walk or take slow and deep breaths to calm yourself down.

Sleep well. Too much or too little sleep and even napping can cause headaches. This is why it is important to maintain regular sleep patterns. Try to go to bed at the same time each evening and wake up at the same time each morning.

Be active. Regular physical activity can prevent headaches, so try to be active for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.

Finally, speak to your doctor if treatments don’t seem to be helping, or if your headaches are frequent or severe.