If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve experienced a headache or two in your life. In fact, I’d be more surprised if you haven’t!
We’ve all been there, and if you’ve experienced a particularly painful migraine or headache, you know how debilitating it can be.
Usually, our first instinct is to grab the nearest bottle of pain meds to make it all go away – because we’ve been trained to do so. But there are other, less toxic ways.
Here, we’ll talk about a few natural headache remedies you can try.
Before getting into ways you can relieve your headache pain, you should know a few of the different kinds of headaches that exist.
Knowing these will help with self-diagnosis, which can enable you to better prioritize the form(s) of relief you will want to attempt. Below are just some of the more common types of headaches.
The most common type of headache, tension headaches, are typically caused by stress, which in turn causes your muscles to tense. You’ve undoubtedly felt this kind of headache before – just imagine someone placing their hands on your temples and squeezing.
After reading the description, I’m sure you’re able to understand why tension headaches are the most common form of headache in our society. The stress of everyday life puts a strain on all of us.
Juggling professional and personal responsibilities can be a tough task in even the best of times. Factor in a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century, and stress levels are bound to skyrocket.
As the name implies, cluster headaches happen in a series of usually four headaches at a time, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours at a time. These are sharp, piercing headaches that generally localize near the eye on one side of the face and can cause swelling, redness, and nasal congestion.
We can go months without a headache, then go through a period of months when we have cluster headaches every day.
When mucus builds up in the sinuses, the pressure build-up from all the congestion can lead to pain that is generally focused behind the eyes and nose and cheeks. Sometimes, a sinus headache can be a sign of a sinus infection.
As this is another topic entirely, it’s not a bad idea to see your doctor if you’re feeling symptoms of a sinus headache. If it is in fact a sinus infection, antibiotics may be in order to clear the infection.
Migraine headaches are characterized by a deep, throbbing pain deep within your head that can last for days. The pain is so intense it can limit your ability to function.
Migraine sufferers can also be sensitive to light, sound, and/or movement. Some migraine sufferers also experience nausea and vomiting, too.
While the solutions below are meant to help treat headaches, if you’re feeling no relief after three days, or lingering issues lasting even longer, seek professional medical advice.
This may be a sign of something else, or a condition not easily treatable with common home remedies. As always, you know your body best. It’s up to you to give yourself the care you need, whether that’s a home remedy or a trip to your doctor.
Let’s discuss some natural ways to relieve headaches
Sometimes the cause of your headache can be simple dehydration. It’s easy to skip out on drinking enough water during the day, but there are studies that show inadequate water intake can be a cause for tension which, as we’ve learned above, can lead to tension headaches and even migraines.
Dehydration can have other negative effects too, like a lack of concentration and a general sense of feeling tired.
The good news is that the solution is simple: drink water. Not only that, but you can also eat water-rich foods like melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.) and fruits like strawberries, oranges, and peaches.
Research water-rich foods for a broader list of foods to help your water intake. Increasing water intake has been shown to help alleviate headache symptoms in some people in as fast as 30 minutes.
Also, you can think a little outside the box too. While water is great, if you’d like a little variety, give coconut water a try. It’s delicious and contains electrolytes.
Try to stay away from sports drinks – you know, the ones ending in “ade.” These tend to have too much sugar for my liking.
Alcohol can cause a double whammy on the body. For starters, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you by causing you to urinate frequently.
And as we’ve just discussed above, you want to increase your water intake, not dehydrate yourself. Because, in case you’ve already forgotten, dehydration makes headaches worse, not better.
Additionally, alcohol is a vasodilator. It opens up your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow more freely. This can cause headaches in some people and can make headaches worse for others.
And if you suffer from frequent headaches, alcohol consumption can exacerbate the problem. Studies have shown alcohol leads to migraines in those who experience frequent headaches. It can lead to tension and cluster headaches in some people, too.
Now, I get it. Lots of us enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time. I certainly don’t want to stop you from enjoying yourself. But as with many things in life, moderation is key. If you already have a headache then that’s definitely not the time to have a drink.
When you’re sleeping, the body is relaxing, recovering, and repairing itself. This process is vital to good health, but it also requires an adequate amount of sleep – roughly seven to nine hours for most people, depending on age.
Studies have shown those who frequently get less than six hours of sleep a night are prone to experience headaches more often and with greater severity.
The moral of this lesson? Get. More. Sleep.
Using a cold compress may not necessarily cure your headache pain, but it can help provide some relief. Placed on your head or neck, the cold compress can decrease inflammation (just like if you injured another joint or muscle playing a sport), and constrict your blood vessels, slowing the flow of blood to your head and providing some temporary relief.
Cold compresses come in many shapes and sizes, from dedicated pads you can buy at a store to a bag of peas. But a simple homemade version consists of a few ice cubes in a plastic bag (make sure it’s watertight). Then wrap a towel around it and place it on your head or neck.
Acupuncture, for those who don’t know, involves a trained practitioner inserting very thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body. The practice finds its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, and while some people discredit acupuncture, others swear by it.
In fact, many studies have shown a link between acupuncture and reduced headache symptoms. If you’re on the fence about it, the best advice I can give is to simply try it before you turn to over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Caffeine intake is a slippery slope. Sipping coffee or tea (or any other caffeinated beverage) can improve your mood, help relieve headache pain, and also help pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen be more effective.
However, as any coffee drinker will tell you, too much caffeine has its own set of problems, as caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches also.
Again, coffee in moderation – as in, one cup – can be beneficial for headache relief. More than that and you run the risk of making things worse.
It’s no secret that staying active and being physically fit does wonders to your overall health. This includes keeping headaches at bay. Studies have shown that those who engage in physical activity get headaches less frequently.
Put another way, it’s been shown that those with low levels of physical activity are at an increased risk of getting headaches.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be anything strenuous – simply going for a walk counts.
Deficiencies in Magnesium, Vitamin D, and the range of B-vitamins can lead to headaches. Dark leafy greens, nuts, tofu, and brown rice are the optimal foods that allow our bodies to obtain these crucial vitamins and minerals.
Also, give White Willow bark a try rather than reaching for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). As a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, White Willow bark is a great way to fend off headaches.
As I’ve said before, massage has so many positive effects on the body. Not to mention it simply feels great too. Headache-focused massage can be as simple as rubbing your temples to help relieve some pain.
If you suffer from tension headaches, massaging your neck and shoulders will help. A great way to do this is with the Backmate, as you can target those areas precisely and apply as much or as little pressure as you wish.
With the unique design of the Backmate, you’re also targeting those muscles when they are relaxed (or, as relaxed as possible) instead of tensed up.
Often you will feel relief on contact. In as little as two minutes, you’llrelieve the headache and achieve lasting results.
Headaches can be debilitating, but there are techniques and remedies we can try to alleviate or manage the pain. Give the steps above a try.
For some, you might need to combine these techniques with medication, but this is something for you to discuss with your doctor. Above all, prioritize your health and seek the solutions that work for you.