Many people use painkillers to get rid of their headaches. Don't take painkillers for extended periods without consulting with your doctor. Some medications, even over the counter drugs (OTC) have unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects. It's always best to rely on non-drug treatments when possible. Here are a few suggestions:
- Relaxation Training: Relaxation has been shown to be extremely effective in the management of headaches. For example, one study published in the journal Headache in 1989 found that migraine sufferers who were taught relaxation exercises had 30% to 40% fewer attacks over the course of three years. The subjects were also better able to cope with the attacks when they occurred and required less medication.
- Essential Oils: Essential oils are a more effective and safer alternative treatment for headaches than painkillers. Essential oils provide pain relief, aid circulation and reduce stress. They have many other health benefits and they boost your immune system instead of causing problems on your organs and nerves. Headaches caused by hormonal imbalances are particularly helped by the use of essential oils. Lavender and Rosemary oils are soothing oils that relieve pain and ease tension. Both help with hormonal imbalances. Lavender and Peppermint can help to reduce headaches caused by stress. Lavender also works as a mild sedative that helps people suffering from headaches caused by insomnia or lack of sleep. Headaches that are caused by allergies can also be minimized and in some cases eliminated by using essential oils. Our top headache oils include: Peppermint, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Frankincense and Cypress.
- Cold: Reusable gel packs are an inexpensive and simple solution that can be used in place of or as an adjunct to medication. Keep the gel pack in the freezer. At the first sign of a headache, put the pack in a hand towel and wrap it around your next. About 70% of headache sufferers will experience some relief with the use of gel packs. If your headache gets worse after applying the pack, it is possible that the cold pack may be aggravating a trigger point.
- Heat: Some people find that heat is better than cold at relieving headaches. Most gel packs can also be heated. They are generally safer and more effective than a heating pad because they mold nicely to the shape of our neck and are less likely to cause burns. A hot bath or hot shower are also very helpful in reducing headache pain. Headaches caused by trigger points generally respond well to heat, whereas migraine headaches may be aggravated.
- Exercise: Regular exercise helps relieve stress and tension and thus can be an excellent way to prevent headaches. Neck, back and shoulder stretches also help relieve tension and are essential for trigger point headaches. Ask your massage therapist for stretches that are appropriate for you.
- Improved Posture: Sitting improperly, at a computer for instance, can create tension in the muscles and trigger a headache. Slouching is particularly problematic as it prevents you from breathing normally and shortens the muscles in the back of your neck. Taking a periodic break to stretch and breathe is very helpful to head off headaches. Remember the 20/20 rule - take a 20 second break every 20 minutes.
- Get To The Cause: A headache may be your body's way of telling you that there is some underlying stressful problem in your life: a troubled relationship, an unfulfilling job or an upcoming exam, etc. Your headaches may go away only after these stressful situations are resolved.
- MASSAGE: This is one of our favorites simply because we know it works so well. Many people think that massage provides only short term relief. However, research shows that not only is massage effective at eliminating headaches, but the relief can last for months. Part of the effectiveness lies in the elimination of trigger points. As well, regular massage can actually retrain your nervous system to decrease the tension in your muscles on a more permanent basis.
Dr. Puustijarni, Researcher
To reduce tension and eliminate trigger points in your shoulders and neck, try this stretch:
Put one hand over your head and gently bring your ear to your shoulder until you feel a comfortable stretching sensation in the side of your neck. Avoid poking your chin forward or rotating your head. Keep your other shoulder down by reaching to the floor with your fingers or by grabbing the seat of your chair. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.