Nothing can stop you in your tracks and keep you from living, moving or staying active like a headache. Whether it’s a migraine (the worst!), a tension headache, a sinus headache, or just a headache caused by every day stress, once it takes you down, it’s hard to get back up. And if you suffer from chronic headaches, your routines and every day activities could be in jeopardy.
We can't get out and do more if we’re in pain, so let’s look at how to treat and prevent headaches so we can live an active and pain-free life.
“Drink more water” is probably something you’ll hear no matter what ailment you’re suffering from but that’s because staying hydrated is so important to our overall health. While there is always some debate about how much water our bodies need, the truth is being dehydrated is one of the worst things we can do to our bodies.
We won’t go into all the details (you can find some of them here!) but being dehydrated can cause headaches and drinking water before taking any medication can help ease your pain naturally.
While exercise might not be the best “in the moment” cure for a headache, regular exercise can help prevent headaches and migraines.
Several studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can help make migraines come less often and make them less severe, says Nada Hindiyeh, MD, a clinical assistant professor of neurology.
Stress and headaches go hand-in-hand and since exercise can help reduce and keep stress under control, staying active and moving frequently can also help prevent headaches. But if you’re using exercise to help prevent headaches, follow some of these tips.
- Hydrate before you exercise
- Don’t exercise in extreme temps
- Make sure you’re in good enough help to exercise regularly (check with your doc!)
- Make sure you’ve eaten enough (about an hour before exercising)
- Make sure to warm up
Not following these tips actually make exercise more likely to bring on a headache. Also, remember that staying active doesn’t mean an intense exercise program every day but can be as simple as going on a brisk walk or doing some gently yoga first thing in the morning or on your lunch break.
Don’t Rely on Medication
Taking ibuprofen for a sever headache once in a while is fine but if you suffer from frequent headaches, medication might actually make the situation worse.
For one, too much ibuprofen or other pain killers are not good for your body or your liver.
But also, if your body gets too used to a particular medication, you might begin to experience rebound headaches.
“When the pain reliever wears off, your body may have a withdrawal reaction, prompting you to take more medicine, which only leads to another headache. And so the cycle continues until you start to have daily headaches with more severe pain more often.”
This can happen even more with medications containing caffeine (popular when treating migraines).
How can you prevent medication making things worse? Only take medicine as a last resort.
- Stretching (which we’ll talk about below)
- A quick nap
If your headache doesn’t go away and you need some medication, give it a try but if they keep coming back, you should see your doctor.
Stretch and Roll
Forget Rock N’ Roll (this would probably make the headache worse), when you have a headache you should try some stretching and rolling (using a foam roller or exercise ball).
When you have a bad headache, everything from your neck to your shoulders and yes, even your jaw or back can feel tense. In fact, that tension may have caused the headache in the first place. Many headaches can be caused by pinched nerves, or even blocked blood flow. So if you’re feeling tension along with your headache, give some stretching a try.
Poses/Stretches to Try:
- Downward Dog
- Bridge Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Neck rolls
- Cat Cow
- Shoulder rolls
- Forward Fold
You can also use a foam roller along your back and shoulders to loosen up areas you might not even know are tight. Stretching and rolling regularly, not just when you experience pain, can help you prevent headaches in the future.
Careful with Caffeine
For some us, caffeine makes the world go ‘round. But for others (or those same people!) caffeine might be contributing to frequent headaches.
Caffeine, or lack of it, can trigger a headache.
“When caffeine is consumed regularly, the body becomes dependent on its effects. And because caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround the brain, when consumption is stopped, the blood vessels enlarge. This causes an increase in blood flow around the brain and pressures surrounding nerves. This can then trigger what is known as a caffeine withdrawal headache.”
On the flip side, and if you’re careful, caffeine can also provide relief for a headache by opening up constricted blood vessels that could cause pain.
The most important thing of just to be careful with caffeine consumption. If you drink it every day, be careful about suddenly stopping. And if you’re using it to treat a headache, just do so in moderation.
Stay in Alignment
When your spine of other part of your body are out of alignment, it can lead to headaches. So it’s important to stretch, do yoga, or roll in order to stay in alignment. You can also make sure your body is supported during physical activities and less likely to slip out of alignment by using an insole like Orange Insoles.
Don’t let headaches prevent you from doing more. Protect your body, prevent headaches, and stay healthy!