Are you someone who suffers from chronic headaches? You are not alone. In fact, according to WebMD, 45 million people get headaches each year. For some, it’s an occasional occurrence; for others it is chronic. Either way headaches can be debilitating, and can get in the way of everyday life. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with a headache.
If you haven’t done so already, get a physical. Chronic headaches can be related to issues like thyroid function, allergies, back and neck strain and injuries. Rule those out first. Don’t forget to include an annual eye exam as eye strain is a common cause of headaches.
There are different types of headaches. A common one is the migraine. The pain is typically, but not always, on one side of the head. Many people experience light and/or noise sensitivity, nausea or dizziness. They can be triggered by certain foods — things like chocolate, cheese, alcohol, dairy, food additives and coloring, and also by emotional stress and even certain smells. And many women get premenstrual migraines. Other types of headaches include tension and sinus pain.
No matter what kind of common headache you experience, there are things you can do to lessen their frequency and duration and eventually get rid of them altogether.
Diet. Nutrition is key, so first take a look at your diet. A good practice is to keep a food journal for a couple of weeks. See if you can identify any foods or ingredients that may be causing your headaches. Headache triggers can include alcohol, food additives, aged cheeses, smoked foods and deli meats, nuts, peanut butter, dried fruits, as well as caffeinated products such as coffee, tea, cocoa, cola and some medications. Migraines can sometimes be set off by scents, sounds and light. Even icy cold foods can cause a headache in some people.
Eliminate these from your diet:
- All artificial sweeteners.
- Processed foods. This includes refined sugar products, lunch meats, items with saturated fats, artificial preservatives and coloring, packaged baked goods, many commercial frozen meals and snack bars. If you aren’t sure, check the label.
- Deli and cured meats, smoked meats and cheeses.
- Fast foods. Most contain a long list of ingredients that would take a scientist to figure out. They are loaded with artificial preservatives, fillers and sodium. If your diet is made up of frequent fast food meals, and you suffer from headaches, you have probably found the root of the problem.
- Anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. Use a little unprocessed honey or agave nectar if you need sweetener.
As you identify your trigger foods, eliminate them from your diet. In general, limit consumption of coffee, caffeinated tea, dairy and meat. Increase fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Increase fish, especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, anchovy and other omega-3 rich fish. Try to eat as much organic or local farm fresh food as possible. Dehydration can also cause a headache so be sure to drink enough water. Exercise daily and get enough sleep each night.
Try a foot soak. If you catch the headache early on, try soaking your feet in comfortably warm to hot water with a few drops of essential oil of peppermint, chamomile, lavender, or rosemary (or any combination of these). If it is a migraine, however, just be mindful of triggering scents that may make it worse and avoid those. Breathing, yoga, relaxation and meditation exercises, especially done on a regular basis, are very helpful toward controlling headaches.
Get a foot massage. A soothing foot massage can actually alleviate headache pain. Reflexology, a form of foot massage that uses specific pressure points on the feet, is an excellent headache remedy. The theory is that the body – the organs, glands, muscles and bones – are represented in zones on the feet. A reflexology practitioner presses and massages these areas which in turn stimulate the body to heal itself. Reflexology should not be painful, and most people find it to be very soothing and relaxing.
Self massage is very helpful when you feel a headache coming on. Gentle pressing on tender areas on the face and scalp can often bring about quick relief. In Chinese medicine, there is a headache point on the hand, in the web between the thumb and first finger. Apply pressure to this point for a few moments with the other hand, then switch hands. Do this for several minutes.
Try acupuncture. One of the best natural therapies for headache, acupuncture will provide long-term relief. Often, chronic headaches sufferers find significant relief within just one or two treatments. According to the World Health Organization, research has shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for headaches.