To medical experts, it’s known as coital cephalgia, an intense, searing headache that’s brought on by sexual activity. But many people know it as an extreme case of, “not tonight dear, I have a headache.”
For Will Ashton, 31, it was one of the most terrifying moments of his life, and it occurred while he was having sex with his girlfriend. “It was like a sledgehammer had smacked me in the back of my head,” Ashton told the Daily Mail. “I collapsed on the bed, groaning and in shock. I couldn’t open my eyes, and I felt dazed for about 30 seconds.”
When his headache was still throbbing two days later, he visited a doctor who diagnosed him with coital cephalgia, Also known as benign sex headache (BSH) or “coital thunderclap headache,” according to the British Journal of Medical Practitioners, the condition strikes an estimated one in 100 people.
Researchers believe, however, that the condition may be more common, since patients are often too embarrassed to discuss it with their doctors. And the condition isn’t well understood even by medical experts. Severe headaches related to sexual activity have also been reported by teens and by people watching pornography.
Men are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with coital cephalgia, and the headaches are more likely to be experienced by those who also suffer from migraines, according to the British Journal of Medical Practitioners. While some people experience a “pre-orgasmic headache” that slowly builds up, others describe a sudden splitting headache at or near the moment of orgasm.
An attack of coital cephalgia isn’t like an ordinary headache: It’s often a sharp, piercing pain that begins at the base of the skull and moves up toward the front of the head and behind the eyes, according to the British Journal of Medical Practitioners. The attacks can occur off and on for months or years, and they often go away on their own.
Doctors stress it’s important to immediately seek medical attention in the event of any sudden, powerful headache. An aneurysm, brain tumor, stroke, spinal disease or cerebral hemorrhage can also cause a severe headache and must be ruled out before coital cephalgia can be accurately diagnosed, according to the British Journal of Medical Practitioners.
Fortunately, there are medical treatments for the condition: Indomethacin (Indocin), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, has been used successfully to treat coital cephalgia. Other options include propranolol hydrochloride (Inderal) and naratriptan (Amerge); all these drugs work best when taken prior to sexual activity, studies have shown.
Now married, Ashton was prescribed indomethacin and hasn’t experienced a sexual headache for months, though “having to take a pill before sex does kind of kill the spontaneity,” he told the Daily Mail.
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- The sex headache
- Pressure Point LI-4 (Hegu)
- Home Remedies: Relief from tension-type headaches
- Types of Headaches
- Headache Causes and Risk Factors
- Top 14 Natural Headache Remedies
- 1. Magnesium
- 2. Gluten-Free Diet
- 3. Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oil
- 4. Chiropractic Care and Posture
- 5. Herbs: Feverfew and Butterbur
- 6. B-Complex Vitamins
- 7. Stay Hydrated
- 8. Detox Bath to Reduce Tension
- 9. Stretching and Moving
- 10. Reflexology
- 11. Acupuncture
- 12. Rest
- 13. Cayenne Muscle Rub
- 14. Compress
- 15. Homemade Muscle Rub
- Final Thoughts
- Home Remedies For Headaches: 10 Natural Ways To Treat Headaches
- Headache remedies to help you feel better
- Take advantage of medications and natural headache relief strategies
- Natural headache relief
- Activities that help
- Other natural headache relief
- Seeking professional help
- The Stress-Headache Connection
- Other Headache Triggers
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Sugar and Other Simple Carbohydrates
- Why Don’t Common Triggers Always Cause Headaches?
- 6 Natural Remedies for Headaches
- 1. Stress busters
- Tai Chi or Qigong
- Balancing and Calming Herbs
- 2. A Trigger-Free Diet and Plenty of Water
- 3. Magnesium Glycinate Supplements
- 4. Acupuncture
- 5. CBD Oil
- 6. Essential Oils
The sex headache
(Q) My problem is a little embarrassing so I have not mentioned it to my doctor. I get headaches during sex that can last for up to four hours. What is the remedy other than avoiding sex?
(A) Sex headache, also known as coital cephalgia or orgasm headache, is a well recognised condition. There are two main types. Type 1 is where there is a pressure-like headache, usually at the back of the head, that builds with mounting sexual excitement. Type 2 is where the headache occurs just before or at the moment of orgasm and has an explosive, throbbing quality.
While these headaches are rarely associated with any underlying brain disorder, it is important to see your doctor for assessment to exclude any potentially life-threatening causes. This is particularly pertinent with type 2 sex headaches and especially with the first episode.
Once such investigations (usually involving imaging of the brain and the blood vessels around it) have excluded any underlying conditions, the issue of how to manage the headaches remains. Other than avoiding sex, options include ceasing sexual activity before orgasm (which may shorten the duration of the headache or even prevent it) or taking medication (such as anti-migraine medication or beta blockers) prior to sex (to prevent a headache) or after headache onset (to shorten the attack). Some people find daily medication is required to prevent attacks.
Talk to your doctor about which medication might be appropriate for you, taking into account your general health and medical history.
For type 1 sex headaches, which may be related to tension headaches and muscular contraction, conscious relaxation of neck, jaw and shoulder muscles before and during sexual activity (as well as relaxation exercises focusing on these areas of tension on a regular basis) may help.
Apart from the pain of the headaches themselves, some individuals find the associated fear, apprehension, distress and consequent negative impact on their sexual relationships is a significant issue. Talk to your partner and your doctor about how the headaches affect you and your relationship and, if needed, referral to a sex therapist or counsellor may be valuable.
Got a question for our medical expert? Ask Dr Cindy Pan here.
Find out more about Dr Cindy Pan.
This information explains how to use acupressure to reduce pain and headaches.
Acupressure is an ancient healing art that’s based on the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. With acupressure, you put pressure on specific places on your body. These places are called acupoints. Pressing these points can help release muscle tension and promote blood circulation. It can also relieve many common side effects of chemotherapy.
You can do acupressure at home by using your fingers to apply pressure to different acupoints. Watch this video or follow the steps below to learn how to do acupressure to reduce pain and headaches.
Pressure Point LI-4 (Hegu)
Figure 1. Finding the space between your
left thumb and index finger
Pressure point LI-4, also called Hegu, is located between the base of your thumb and index finger. Doing acupressure on this point to relieve pain and headaches.
- Using your right thumb and index finger, find the space on your left hand between the base of your left thumb and index finger (see Figure 1).
- Press down on this point for 5 minutes. Move your thumb in a circle while applying pressure. Be firm, but don’t press so hard that it hurts.
- Repeat the process on your right hand.
You can do acupressure several times a day, or as often as needed for your symptoms to go away.
To learn about other therapies available at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK), call the Integrative Medicine Service at 646-888-0800 or visit our website: www.mskcc.org/IntegrativeMedicine.
Home Remedies: Relief from tension-type headaches
Nearly everyone is familiar with the pain of tension-type headaches. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may help, but healthy lifestyle choices can help you head off the pain. Start with the basics, including diet, exercise and relaxation.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
A healthy lifestyle can promote good overall health and help prevent tension-type headaches. Here are the basics:
- Eat healthy foods.
Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, and drink plenty of water each day.
- Exercise regularly.
Exercise releases chemicals in your body that block pain signals to the brain. With your doctor’s permission, choose any exercise you enjoy, whether that’s walking, swimming or cycling. Start slowly; exercising too vigorously can trigger some types of headaches.
- Get enough sleep.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — even on weekends. Relax before you go to bed. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and read or do something soothing until you’re drowsy. Avoid medications (including some headache medications) that contain caffeine and other stimulants that can affect sleep.
- Avoid excess caffeine.
While caffeine may help curb headaches, heavy daily caffeine use — more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (about four regular cups of coffee) — can cause headaches and irritability. Chronic caffeine use also increases the risk of headaches, as does quitting caffeine altogether — whether you quit suddenly or cut back gradually.
- Quit smoking.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke reduces blood flow to the brain, and triggers a reaction in the nerves at the back of the throat, which may lead to a headache.
Keep stress under control
Stress and tension-type headaches often go hand in hand. To reduce stress, try these simple tips:
- Simplify your life.
Don’t look for ways to squeeze more activities or chores into the day; instead find things you can leave out.
- Take a break.
If you feel overwhelmed, a few slow stretches or a quick walk may renew your energy levels.
When you feel your stress levels rising, take several deep breaths and count to 10.
- Adjust your attitude.
Think positive thoughts. Don’t think that something is impossible; tell yourself that you are up to the challenge.
- Let go.
Don’t worry about things you can’t control.
Ease muscle tension
Tense muscles can trigger tension-type headaches. Apply heat or ice to relieve tense neck and shoulder muscles. Use a heating pad set on low, a hot water bottle, a hot shower or bath, a warm compress, or a hot towel. Or apply an ice pack (wrapped in a cloth) or a cool washcloth across the forehead.
Massage also can relieve muscle tension — and sometimes headache pain. Gently massage your temples, scalp, neck and shoulders with your fingertips, or gently stretch the neck.
Take time to unwind every day. Try this deep-breathing exercise:
- Lie down on your back or sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor; hands in your lap.
- Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, perhaps a beach or quiet forest. Keep this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for at least 10 minutes.
- When you’re done, sit quietly for a minute or two.
Try to practice these breathing exercises or another form of relaxation every day.
Keep a headache diary
A diary may help you determine what triggers your tension-type headaches. Note when your headaches start, your activities, how long the headaches last and anything that provides relief. The diary may help you spot patterns in your daily habits that contribute to your tension-type headaches.
Look for improvements in your headaches as you make additional healthy lifestyle changes.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
Oh, my aching head! In a world of traffic jams, tight schedules, and high-speed everything, it’s no wonder we find ourselves popping an occasional pain reliever.
For a bad headache, choose one that contains a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine. (Off-limits…if you have a bleeding disorder, asthma, ulcers, or liver or kidney damage.)
But painkillers are only part of the solution. There’s much more you can do to escape the thump and wallop of a throbbing noggin.
Home remedies for headaches: give it a good press
• With a firm, circular motion, massage the web of skin between the base of your thumb and your forefinger. Continue massaging for several minutes, then switch hands and repeat until the pain resolves. Acupressure experts call this fleshy area trigger point LIG4 and maintain that it is linked to areas of the brain where headaches originate.
Heat up and cool down
• Believe it or not, soaking your feet in hot water will help your head feel better. By drawing blood to your feet, the hot-water footbath will ease pressure on the blood vessels in your head. For a really bad headache, add a bit of hot mustard powder to the water.
• For a tension headache, place a hot compress on your forehead or the back on your neck. The heat will help relax knotted-up muscles in this area.
• It might sound contradictory, but you can follow up the heat treatment (or substitute it) by applying a cold compress to your forehead. (Put a couple of ice cubes in a washcloth or use a bag of frozen vegetables.) Cold constricts blood vessels, and when they shrink, they stop pressing on sensitive nerves. Since headache pain sometimes originates in nerves in back of your neck, try moving the compress to the muscles at the base of your skull.
• Here’s an alternative to a cold compress: Soak your hands in ice water for as long as you can stand it. While your hands are submerged, repeatedly open and close your fists. This works on the same principle as an ice pack on your head’the cold narrows your dilated blood vessels.
Try the caffeine cure
• Have a cup of strong coffee. Caffeine reduces blood-vessel swelling, and thus can help relieve a headache. This is why caffeine is an ingredient in some extra-strength painkillers like Excedrin. However, if you are already a heavy coffee drinker, skip this. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, creating a vicious cycle.
Do something constrictive
• Tie a bandanna, scarf, or necktie around your forehead, then tighten it just to the point where you can feel pressure all around your head. By reducing the flow of blood to your scalp, this can help relieve the pain caused by swollen blood vessels. You might try soaking the bandanna in vinegar, a traditional headache remedy.
Soothe with scent
• Certain essential oils, especially lavender, can help ease tension and relieve the pain of a headache. Gently massage a bit of lavender oil onto your forehead and temples, then lie back and enjoy the relaxing scent. For maximum relief, slip away to a room that’s cool, dark, and quiet. The longer you can lie there quietly breathing in the aroma, the better.
• In addition to lavender oil, or instead of it,use peppermint oil. The menthol it contains can help dissolve away a headache. Its fragrance at first stimulates, then relaxes, the nerves that cause headache pain.
• If you have a vaporizer, add seven drops lavender oil and three drops peppermint oil, then breathe in the relief. If you don’t, try sprinkling a few drops of peppermint oil on a tissue. Inhale deeply several times.
• Try wringing out two wet peppermint tea bags and place them on your closed eyelids or forehead for five minutes.
Swallow some throb stoppers
• An anti-inflammatory, ginger was traditionally used to treat headaches, and it seems to work. Grind up a half-teaspoon ginger, stir it into a glass of water, and drink this ‘ginger juice.’ Or pour 1 cup hot water over 1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger, let the tea cool a bit, then drink it. Ginger is especially effective against migraines, though how it works is not well understood. Doctors do know that ginger has an effect on prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that contribute to inflammation. Ginger also helps control the nausea that so often accompanies migraines.
• Try drinking a cup of rosemary tea; some people say it helps keep a headache from getting worse. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the dried herb, steep for 10 minutes, strain, and drink.
• At least one grandmother counted on strong black tea with a few bruised whole cloves added. Tea contains caffeine, and cloves have anti-inflammatory properties, so the brew might indeed help a headache.
• Down a large glass of water and see if it helps. Dehydration can cause a headache.
The power of prevention
• If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw-either when you’re awake or asleep-take steps to prevent the problem. You might need to wear a mouth guard at night.
• Eat at regular intervals. There’s evidence that a drop in blood sugar-the result of going too long without eating-can set the stage for headaches.
• At least three days a week, spend 30 minutes walking, cycling, swimming, or doing some other form of aerobic exercise. These exercises are great stress-relievers.
Life can get pretty busy and stressful, and the “common” headache is sometimes overlooked or masked with a painkiller like aspirin (which, especially when overused, can sometimes cause more serious health issues). A headache is a good indicator that your body is missing something – maybe you need to take a breather, drink some water or change the way you eat. You may have a vitamin or nutrient deficiency or a food sensitivity that is causing this built-up tension.
Headaches can be triggered by stress, fatigue, allergies, eyestrain, poor posture, alcohol or drugs, low blood sugar, hormones, constipation and nutritional deficiencies. Your body is telling you that something needs to change, so begin to heed those signals. You may be wondering, how do you make a headache go away?
To find headache relief, use these 10 headache remedies, which include herbs, vitamins, posture correction, diet changes and more, to fight headaches in a natural and healthy way.
Types of Headaches
Although there are 150 different types of headaches, there are four types that are most common. The most common types are: (1)
This is the most common type of headache among adults and teenagers. Tension headaches are also known as stress headaches, chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches. Causing mild to moderate chronic pain, they come and go over time.
These headaches are the most severe, but least common type. The pain is intense and can feel like a burning or piercing pain behind the eyes. Cluster headaches occur in groups over a period of time lasting from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. They may go away for months or years, but then come back.
Inflamed sinuses can cause pain in your cheeks, forehead and bridge of your nose. Usually other sinus symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, pressure in the ears and facial swelling, occur at the same time.
Migraine headaches can last from a few hours to a few days and usually occur one or more times a month. People usually have other symptoms with migraines, including: sensitivity to light, noise or smells; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and upset stomach or belly pain. A child experiencing a migraine headache may turn pale, feel dizzy, have blurry vision, a fever and an upset stomach.
Mixed Headache Syndrome
This type of headache is also known as a transformed headache and includes symptoms of both migraine and tension headaches. Adults and children may both experience mixed headaches.
Headache Causes and Risk Factors
You may be wondering what causes headaches. In general, headaches occur due to a combination of nerve signals sent from the blood vessels and muscles in the head. What causes these signals to turn on is still unknown. Headache triggers can include: (2)
- Illnesses such as sinus infections, colds, fever or throat infection.
- Eyestrain or back strain
- Environmental causes such as secondhand tobacco smoke, smells from chemicals or perfumes
- Heredity as headaches tend to run in families, especially migraines
- Food allergies
- Hormone imbalance
- Vitamin or mineral imbalance
- Aspartame (3)
Top 14 Natural Headache Remedies
What can you do for a headache? Luckily there are several natural remedies that can show you how to make a headache go away fast without medicine. Try some of these natural ways to fight headaches.
Magnesium is one of the most successful headache remedies, first of all, because it’s much safer than taking a painkiller. People who suffer from serious headaches, like migraines, often have low levels of magnesium, and several studies suggest that magnesium may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in people with low levels.
Those prone to low counts of magnesium include people with diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism as well as those on diuretics for blood pressure.
Magnesium may prevent the wave of brain signaling, called cortical spreading depression, which produces the visual and sensory changes that are common when experiencing a headache, especially a migraine. Magnesium can block the pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain, and it can improve platelet function, which will help your body react to injuries and prevent bleeding.
Taking 200–600 mg of magnesium a day can reduce the frequency of headache attacks. Both oral and intravenous magnesium are widely available, extremely safe and inexpensive. Magnesium can be used safely by women who are pregnant. The most frequent side effect of magnesium is diarrhea, but lowering your dose or taking it less often can eliminate that issue. (4)
To increase your daily magnesium intake, eat more fiber. Dietary sources of magnesium include beans, whole grains, seeds, nuts and vegetables like broccoli, squash and leafy greens. Dairy products, meats, chocolate and coffee also include decent levels of magnesium.
2. Gluten-Free Diet
When people with gluten sensitivity eat foods containing gluten, it can lead to a headache. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, patients who have undiagnosed celiac disease and migraine headaches often see either complete resolution of migraine headaches, or a significant reduction in the frequency and strength of symptoms after giving up gluten.
You may not have celiac disease, but a gluten sensitivity that gives you a headache. If this is the case, you don’t have to cut out gluten completely — instead, try to cut back on your daily intake.
Start this headache remedy by going on a gluten-free diet for three weeks, then introduce foods containing gluten slowly. Pay attention to the way you feel when adding more gluten to your diet and find your happy balance. Listen to your body you will find out how much of a food group you can eat without triggering symptoms. (5)
3. Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oil
The calming and numbing effects of both peppermint and lavender oils make them perfect tools for finding headache relief.
Peppermint oil generates a long-lasting cooling effect on the skin. Research shows that peppermint oil stimulates a significant increase in skin blood flow of the forehead, and it soothes muscle contractions. One study showed that peppermint oil, in combination with ethanol, reduced headache sensitivity. (6)
Lavender oil is commonly used as a mood stabilizer and sedative. Research has shown that the use of lavender oil is a safe and effective treatment of migraine headaches. One study conducted in 2012 measured the results of inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes. The 47 participants were asked to record the effects every half hour, for two hours. Out of 129 headache attacks, 92 responded to the lavender oil remedy. (7)
Yes, essential oils for headaches make very effective remedies, so take advantage of their benefits by placing a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil into your hands and then rubbing the blend on your forehead, temples and back of neck. If the smell is too strong for you, or if the peppermint is too chilling, dilute it down by mixing the essential oils with almond, grapeseed or coconut oil. By adding coconut oil, you can take advantage of its own amazing health benefits — like balancing hormones, moisturizing skin and decreasing wrinkles.
4. Chiropractic Care and Posture
One of the best things about chiropractic care is that it’s a drug-free and surgery-free path to healing naturally. The chiropractor can reduce oxidative stress in the body, just like an antioxidant.
Oxidative stress is the damage that occurs when free radicals outnumber the body’s antioxidants. Oxidative stress damages all body cell components: proteins, lipids and DNA.
Several clinical trials indicate that spinal manipulation therapy may help treat headaches. In one such study, 22 percent of those who received chiropractic manipulation reported more than a 90 percent reduction of headaches; meanwhile, 49 percent reported that the headache intensity was significantly reduced after receiving chiropractic treatment. (8)
Chiropractic adjustments or spinal manipulation helps to alleviate the stress of your system. Studies suggest that chiropractic manipulation reduces tension and migraine headaches. The Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College conducted a study involving 729 subjects, of whom 613 received chiropractic care and their outcomes ranged from good to excellent, indicating that it’s a positive and beneficial headache remedy. (9)
5. Herbs: Feverfew and Butterbur
Headaches can be relieved naturally through the use of tension-easing herbs.
The leaves of feverfew are used to make medicine. Research shows that consuming feverfew reduces the frequency of migraine headaches and headache symptoms, including pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise.
A systematic review, completed by The School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Science, U.K, compared the results of six studies. The results indicate that feverfew is effective in the prevention of migraine headaches and doesn’t pose any major safely concerns. (10)
If you’re interested in trying this natural remedy, it’s easy to find and purchase feverfew
products, which are typically made of dry feverfew leaves. Feverfew supplements are available fresh, freeze-dried or dried. Feverfew can be purchased as capsules, tablets or liquid extracts; the recommended dose for headache relief is 50-100 milligrams of feverfew extract.
Butterbur is an herb that reduces the inflammatory effect of chemicals that trigger headaches, especially migraines. It also acts as a beta blocker, resulting in normal blood flow to the brain. Doses of at least 75 milligrams twice daily seem to be necessary for the best headache-reducing results.
One study, done over a four-month period, showed that migraine attack frequency was reduced by 48 percent in participants who consumed 75 milligrams of butterbur twice a day. This research, done at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, measured a decrease in migraine attack frequency — suggesting that butterbur is an effective headache remedy and symptom reliever. (11)
6. B-Complex Vitamins
Many B vitamins are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which may be deficient in people who suffer from migraines. Sadly, millions of Americans are coming up short on one or more of the B vitamins and this is causing energy slumps, unhealthy blood cell and adrenal effects, foggy thinking and headache symptoms.
A B-complex vitamin includes a group of eight water-soluble vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid. Together, these vitamins improve brain cells, circulation, immune function and cardiovascular health.
B vitamins are water-soluble, so an overdose is rare. If there is extra in your system, it will be flushed out through urine. Studies indicate that while vitamin B2 may reduce the frequency and duration of migraines, vitamin B3 calms vascular headaches by opening up blood vessels to increase blood flow. Try taking one B-complex vitamin a day, as the benefits go beyond headache relief.
A fascinating study on mood and psychological strain associated with chronic work stress measured the effectiveness of a three-month administration of two forms of high-dose vitamin B complex. Sixty participants were involved in the trial that assessed their personality, work demands, mood, anxiety and strain.
The vitamin B complex treatment groups fared considerably better than the control group, reporting substantial lower levels of “personal strain” as well as an overall “reduction in confusion and depressed/dejected mood” after 12 weeks. The outcome suggested that vitamin B complex vitamins were a cost-effective treatment for the mood and psychological strain effects of occupational stress. (12)
7. Stay Hydrated
The dehydrating effects of coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol can certainly leave us with a killer headache. Most Americans simply aren’t getting enough water, which in itself can relive headache pain and symptoms. This simple (and free) remedy will keep you feeling full, energized and headache-free.
You can also quench your thirst and stay hydrated with fruits and veggies — some even have a water content that’s over 90 percent. Try adding these nutritious fruits and veggies to your diet in order to stay hydrated throughout the day:
- Green peppers
A study done at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery concludes that there is indeed a water-deprivation headache. The study notes that while water deprivation is common and recognized by the public, it’s not described in medical literature. The research indicates that headaches from a lack of water include impaired concentration and irritability, too! (13)
So if you feel a headache coming on, consider your water intake and drink up.
8. Detox Bath to Reduce Tension
A detox isn’t just for cleaning your body, but also for ridding your body of toxins that will make you sick and can be one of the best preventative headache remedies. To bring toxins to the surface of your skin, make the water as hot as you can tolerate; then, as you sit in the cooling water, the your body will release the toxins.
You can dress up your detox bath to boost its tension-reducing capabilities:
- Add a cup of baking soda to hot bath water. Baking soda kills bacteria, leaves your skin clean and smooth, and minimizes skin irritability — making it a handy and inexpensive product.
- Add essential oil to your bath water — there are so many surprising essential oil uses and benefits. The soothing, calming, invigorating and cooling qualities of these oils will release any pent-up tension that your body is holding on to, offering pain relief. Try lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, frankincense or sandalwood oil.
- Add two cups of apple cider vinegar to hot bath water. The ACV draws excess uric acid out of the body, and it provides joint pain, arthritis, gout and headache relief. ACV can also soothe sunburn, heal poison ivy, kill fungus and tone your skin — so there are some extra health benefits to this easy headache remedy.
9. Stretching and Moving
Staying in one position for an extended period of time, like sitting at your desk or computer, can lead to body tension and create headache symptoms.
Plus, let’s face it, many of us spend hours a day hunched over, such as peering at your smartphone. This position, with your head sticking out, puts an extra 20–30 pounds of pressure on your neck!
No wonder such a position leads to major tension headaches. An easy way to avoid this chain reaction is to take a break every 30-60 minutes — stretch and move your head and neck around in a circular motion. This will relieve the built up stress and can help in avoiding headaches.
Doing yoga is a great way to relieve built-up tension. Yoga clears your mind and loosens your muscles — it improves respiration, vitality and muscle strength, and it’s great for the circulatory system. If you feel a headache coming on, try a few yoga poses like the downward facing dog or child’s pose.
A 2012 study done by the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Finland measured the results of a stretching program for 60 women. The 12-month program resulted in a 69 percent decrease in headache frequency and symptom intensity. In addition to stretching, the results were even better when participants added muscle endurance and strength training exercises to their routines. (14)
Perhaps massaging your toes could help eliminate your headache. Reflexology is an ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) healing art in which certain points or zones of the feet are stimulated to encourage healing in corresponding parts of the body. Researchers still aren’t entirely sure just how reflexology works, yet it is indeed effective at treating a variety of conditions, including headaches.
You can try stimulating some headache-relieving reflexology points at home. There are four headache remedy pressure points on your feet and one on the hand that when stimulated can help give you some headache and migraine relief. First massage the area between your big toe and the second toe. If your headache is in your right temple, massage this point on your left foot and vice versa. To relieve a headache, you can also press the Tai Chong or Liver 3 point on the top of your foot. Again massage this point on the foot opposite to the side of your head where you feel pain. Or, massage both feet if you have pain on both sides of your head.
There is helpful another point near the outer edge of the top of the foot, located where the bones of the pinky toe and the second to last toe intersect. Press and hold this point for 30 to 60 seconds to relieve headaches that run through the side of the head to the forehead. Finally, you can also stimulate the tops of the big toes, under the toenail to the base of the toe, to relieve headache pain located in the face, such as in the sinuses. Do not stimulate these points if you are pregnant. (15)
Another holistic TCM remedy, acupuncture originated in China about 2,500 years ago and is used to treat a wide variety of diseases, including headaches and migraines. Acupuncture seeks to balance the body’s energy, or Qi, by stimulating specific points on the body. It has been proven to provide relief for chronic disease and pain.
Particularly if you are struggling with migraines, resting or sitting in a darkened room can help relieve symptoms and it can be a basic headache treatment at home. Close your eyes and focus on relieving tension in your neck, back and shoulders.
13. Cayenne Muscle Rub
Cayenne pepper can stimulate your body’s circulation and reduce acidity — and it makes for one of the most surprising headache remedies. The capsaicin in cayenne is good for treating pain and inflammation — cayenne depletes the bodily element that makes us feel pain, called substance P, by stimulating a pain response in another area of the body.
When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief. When applied topically, cayenne has the ability to relieve headache symptoms and relax your muscles. (16)
In the U.S. today, cayenne pepper is mostly used as a spice, but in many societies and parts of the world, it goes far beyond just flavoring food. For Native Americans as well as the ancient Chinese, cayenne pepper has been used consistently for therapeutic reasons.
When reaching for a compress, most people begin to wonder whether they should be using a hot or a cold compress. The answer: either could work for a headache. Many people with tension headaches prefer using a warm compress, while people with migraines often prefer cold. Whether migraine fighting or fending off a tension headache, either, however, could offer pain relief, so if you try one with no success, you can try the other. (17)
15. Homemade Muscle Rub
Try this homemade muscle rub, it really works! It penetrates deep into the muscles, bringing both a soothing and relaxing sensation. This is one of my favorite things to use after I’ve done my morning high intensity interval training workout (HIIT), and it’s especially helpful in headache pain relief and reducing tension.
Total Time: 20-30 minutes
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup grated beeswax
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder
- 2 teaspoons ginger or turmeric powder
- 15 drops peppermint essential oil
- 15 drops lavender essential oil
- Glass jar
- Pour all oils (except essential oils) into a jar. Place a saucepan with two inches of water over medium low heat.
- Place jar in saucepan and allow contents to melt. Stir to combine. Add the cayenne and ginger/turmeric.
- Once combined, allow to cool slightly and then add in essential oils. Mix well.
- Pour mixture into metal tins or storage containers and allow to set.
- There are four common types of headaches: tension, cluster, sinus and migraine.
- Headaches may have a variety of causes, including illnesses, food or chemical allergies, back or neck strain, aspartame, heredity and hormone imbalance, among others.
- There are at least 14 natural remedies you can try to relieve headache symptoms, including magnesium supplementation, essential oils, reflexology, headache- and migraine-fighting foods, acupuncture, rest and a cayenne muscle rub.
Home Remedies For Headaches: 10 Natural Ways To Treat Headaches
Managing Your Headaches
“Headaches are characterised by a feeling of tenseness in the neck, shoulder and scalp whereas migraines are basically pulsating headaches, often on one side of the head. Symptoms actually vary from person to person, and even from one migraine attack to the next,” says Dr. Supriya Bali, Internal Medicine, Max Hospitals.
It is essential that you avoid headache-inducing substances like MSG (monosodium glutamate), excessive caffeine, alcohol, phenylethylamine found in chocolate and cheese, tyramine found in nuts and fermented meats and soy, and aspartame present in many artificially sweetened foods. If you start getting a headache, steer clear of all devices including your phone, laptop and TV. Eat healthy, and at regular intervals since a drop in blood sugar can set the stage for headaches. At least thrice a week, if not more, spend 30 minutes exercising. And always, we mean always, stay hydrated.
1. Ginger, The All-Rounder
Touted as an elixir for headaches, ginger is a home remedy for instant relief. It helps reduce inflammation of the blood vessels in the head, hence easing the pain. And since it stimulates digestion, it also helps quell the nausea which occurs during migraines.
Wondering how to use this miracle ingredient as a home remedy for headache? Steep ginger root for tea, or mix equal parts of ginger juice and lemon juice and drink up. You can consume this once or twice a day. You can also apply a paste of ginger powder and 2 tablespoons water on your forehead for a few minutes to provide quicker relief.
Touted as an elixir for headaches, ginger is a home remedy for instant relief
2. Soothe with Scent
Peppermint Oil: With its refreshing scent, peppermint helps open up clogged blood vessels which cause headache. It contains menthol which helps regulate blood flow in the body. Quietly breathe in the aroma in a cool, dark room. You can also mix 3 drops of peppermint oil in one tablespoon of almond oil, or just add a little water and massage the temples or the back of your neck with it. Alternatively, can apply crushed peppermint leaves on your forehead. Make an herbal tea by adding 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint to a cup of boiling water. Cover and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add some honey to sweeten it. Sip the tea slowly.
Lavender Oil: Not only does lavender have a beautiful fragrance – it’s also a great remedy for alleviating headaches. Simply smelling the soothing scent of lavender essential oil helps, so you can just put a few drops on a tissue and inhale it. You can also add 2 drops of lavender oil to two cups of boiling water and inhale the steam. Another option is to mix two or three drops in one tablespoon of almond oil or olive oil and massage your forehead with it. “You can even draw a foot bath of lavender oil and peppermint, since the hot water draws blood to your feet and the aroma relaxes you”, suggests Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Healing Touch Hospital.
Note: Do not take lavender oil orally.
3. Cinnamon Please!
Cinnamon is a miracle spice that is known as one of the effective headache remedies. Wondering how to use it? Here’s help: Grind some cinnamon sticks into a powder, and add some water to make a thick paste. Apply it on your forehead and temples and lie down for 30 minutes. Then wash it off with lukewarm water.
(Also Read: Cinnamon for Weight Loss: Try the Spicy Way to Lose Kilos)
Written by Dr. Jamilet Alegria, M.D.
Headaches are a common complaint in children of all ages. I can personally empathize with all of my headache-suffering patients because I started having chronic headaches when I was just a young child. Different types of headaches can have different root causes, but all headaches are bothersome and potentially disruptive to your child’s daily activities. While headaches are common, they deserve a complete, possibly urgent evaluation in the following scenarios:
- Headaches wake your child up in the morning or are associated with morning nausea or vomiting (urgent)
- Headache is associated with fever and/or neck stiffness (urgent)
- Headaches occur more than 3 days a week
- Your child is unable to participate in activities such as school or extracurricular activities more than twice a month due to headaches
- You are at all concerned by the frequency or intensity of your child’s headaches
If headaches are only occasional, or if worrisome conditions are ruled out after a thorough evaluation, the conventional recommendation would be to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen when your child has a headache. However, the holistic approach we take at CentreSpringMD is to find the root cause, encourage preventive measures like good nutrition, hydration and sleep, and provide natural remedies when headaches do hit. Here are my five favorite integrative and holistic remedies for headache treatment and prevention in children.
- Peppermint Oil
Pure, therapeutic grade peppermint oil is a potent and effective remedy for both headaches and associated nausea. I always recommend diluting essential oils before applying them topically, and always keep the oils away from the eyes. Peppermint oil can be applied to the temples (in children old enough not to rub it into their eyes), forehead, and back of the neck to help calm a headache when it hits. This can be repeated as frequently as needed until the problem is resolved. You can also apply the diluted peppermint oil to the upper abdomen and to the insides of the wrists to help with any nausea.
Magnesium can be used both to acutely treat a headache, as well as to help prevent more chronically occurring headaches. An easily absorbable form of magnesium like Magnesium Glycinate, is my recommendation. The dose is determined by the child’s age and size, as well as by what has worked for them in the past. Since magnesium is relaxing, the daily preventive dose is best given in the evening.
Even in the conventional world, Riboflavin (also known as Vitamin B2) is given to help prevent headaches, with evidence most available specifically for migraines. Again, the daily dose would be determined depending on the child’s size and age.
Both standard and needle-free acupuncture can be used as a treatment for acute headaches, and also as a preventive strategy for chronic headaches. This is a therapy that we are happy to be able to offer at CentreSpringMD, performed by our certified acupuncturist.
- Eliminate Food Triggers
I often encourage kids who suffer frequent headaches to keep a headache diary to include a log of their food/drink intake. Food sensitivities can be a root cause for recurrent headaches, so looking for food associations in a headache diary often helps find the culprits. Remember that symptoms from food sensitivities are not always immediate; they can take 24 hours to 5 days to develop. A few years ago, I discovered that the root cause of my headaches was a significant gluten/wheat sensitivity. I know now that the onset of my severe headache or migraine is not until at least 24 hours after accidental ingestion. Sometimes, just eliminating common food culprits like wheat/gluten, dairy (especially hard cheeses), MSG, and chocolate can be enough to decrease the frequency and severity of headaches. If doing this does not do the trick, we can test for food sensitivities using our ALCAT or IgG testing modalities.
One of the most gratifying things I get to do as a holistic pediatrician is treat headaches, especially since I suffered so regularly from headaches most of my life. Finding the root causes, and supporting the body as it heals is a favorite part of my job. Do you have a favorite natural headache remedy? Let us know in the comments!
Tags: Acupuncture, essential oils, headache, holistic, Integrative, pediatrics
Categories: Pediatric Wellness
Headache remedies to help you feel better
Take advantage of medications and natural headache relief strategies
Published: September, 2016
When headache pain has you in its grip, a fast-acting headache remedy is a top priority. Some headache remedies come in the form of medication. But there are also many ways to achieve natural headache relief. Feeling better may require a combination of treatments.
Headache remedies for migraine headaches are usually prescription drugs, such as
Triptans are meant for acute treatment of migraines, while all the other categories are meant for chronic prevention of migraines.
You must talk to a doctor in order to get a prescription. The drugs are not available over the counter.
While there are also prescription medications for other types of headaches, such as tension headaches or sinus headaches, over-the-counter (OTC) headache remedies may be enough to relieve the pain they bring. OTC pills are available without a prescription, but as the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report Headaches: Relieving and preventing migraines and other headaches notes, they are medications and must be used carefully.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) is a generally safe non-aspirin headache remedy. But doses above 3 grams per day, especially when combined with alcohol, can cause potentially fatal liver damage. If you consume three or more alcoholic drinks a day, every day, don’t take acetaminophen.
- Aspirin quells pain and may prevent migraine headaches in some people when taken regularly. Long-term side effects include kidney damage and gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach pain, heartburn, or nausea. Bleeding from the stomach can also occur, often in such minute quantities as to go unnoticed. However, over time anemia may result, causing fatigue— which, in turn, may increase the frequency of headaches. Avoid aspirin if you have reflux, gastritis, or ulcers.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox), and ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis, others). In some people, NSAIDs help prevent migraine headaches. Their long-term side effects are similar to those for aspirin.
Most healthy people who have mild to moderately painful headaches once in a while can take OTC headache remedies. But if you need to take an OTC painkiller several times a week, you should see your doctor.
Natural headache relief
Some people feel more comfortable seeking natural headache relief, in the form of plant-based or mineral supplements. Some of the most widely used preparations include:
- Butterbur, an herb derived from plants in the genus Petasites
- Feverfew, A daisy-like flower native to Europe
- Peppermint oil, a culinary herb
- Magnesium, a mineral
- Coenzyme Q10 , an enzyme found in mitochondria, the energy factories of our cells
- Vitamin B12
Consult your doctor before taking any of these supplements, as they can interact with medications to treat headaches or other conditions. The FDA does not regulate the effectiveness or safety of these products.
Activities that help
You may need more than just a pill for a headache remedy. Certain activities are also effective at relieving pain. For example, half of all headache sufferers in the United States use some type of mind-body technique to alleviate the pain. These include:
- relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing
- hypnosis, a state of deep relaxation that is similar to being in a trance
- stress management
These mind-body therapies can help lower stress, a widely accepted headache trigger, and they also promote healthier lifestyle habits, such as getting adequate sleep, to keep headaches at bay.
Exercise, if performed regularly, is another natural headache remedy. It helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. It also boosts your mood, relieves stress, and helps prevent a host of ailments, such as high blood pressure.
Other natural headache relief
If your own natural headache remedies aren’t effective, consider alternatives, such as:
- Acupuncture: According to traditional Chinese beliefs, acupuncture works by affecting the flow of energy through pathways that run through the body.
- Psychotherapy: This can help you manage the effects that headaches have on your life, as well as the stresses and anxieties that may aggravate your pain.
- Physical therapy: This can provide relief for tension headaches and migraines by relaxing the tense muscles that commonly accompany tension and migraine headaches.
Seeking professional help
If headaches occur on a regular basis, it’s important to speak to your doctor, to see if an underlying condition is to blame, such as a medication side effect or a blood vessel abnormality.
Start with your primary care physician. You may be referred to a neurologist, who might order tests based on your symptoms. Once you have a diagnosis of the causes of your headaches, your doctor will be able to help you devise strategies for effective headache remedies.
– By Heidi Godman
Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
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Migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, sinus and allergy headaches, menstrual headaches, caffeine-related headaches. There are so many different types of headaches, and chances are you’ll experience at least one of them from time to time, if not more and more frequently. Tension headaches and migraines, for instance, are among the top three most common diseases in the world (along with dental cavities), according to the Journal of Headache Pain.
While occasional head pain, whatever the type, doesn’t cause lasting problems, it can be frustrating and life-disrupting. Frequent headaches, on the other hand, can be downright debilitating, impacting not only your quality of life but also daily activity and mental state. And all of that can then have a significant ripple effect on your health overall.
For the most part, it doesn’t really matter how or where your head hurts; what’s key for long-term relief is figuring out why you’re getting headaches in the first place, says Dr. Bill Rawls, M.D, Medical Director of Vital Plan. In some cases, it’s easy to pinpoint.
If your nose is stuffed up or you’re sneezing and wheezing due to allergies, for example, chances are good you’ve got a sinus or allergy headache. Hunger headaches are also usually easy to predict (and avoid), while women who suffer from menstrual headaches tend to figure out quickly that the pain coincides with specific points in their monthly cycle.
Things get trickier, though, when you’re not sure what’s causing your pain. That’s in part because so many different factors — dietary, environmental, emotional, microbial — have been linked to headaches and migraines. What’s more, many of those factors can make other types of headaches (like menstrual headaches, for example) worse.
“As with any illness, to get at that ‘why’ of having a headache, it’s best to start by going down the list of the most common things that interfere with cell communication and proper functioning and thus influence all systems in the body,” Dr. Rawls says. “The first question I’d ask for someone seeking headache relief is, how stressed are you and are you getting enough sleep?”
The Stress-Headache Connection
There is indeed a strong association between stress levels and frequency of headaches, according to a study in the journal Neurology that surveyed more than 5,000 people. Why? When you experience emotional stress, your body releases all sorts of hormones and chemicals as part of the flight-or-fight response, which then may cause changes to blood vessels and blood flow and increase muscle tension that can lead to throbbing or a dull, constant head pain.
What complicates things is that the stress-headache link goes both ways; not only can stress trigger or exacerbate head pain, frequent or chronic headaches also contribute to stress. For instance, stress may lead you to fuel up on coffee or other caffeinated drinks and unhealthy, carb-heavy processed foods, while also skimping on sleep and exercise — all things that have also been linked to headaches. “There are a lot of common headache triggers that may not always bring on a headache right away, but they can build up to a certain threshold until it’s a case of the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” says Dr. Rawls.
Other Headache Triggers
Whether you’re stressed or not, also carefully consider your general lifestyle habits, Dr. Rawls suggests. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are you getting eight hours of sleep?
- Do you mostly avoid a typical Western diet and predominantly eat fresh vegetables, fruits, and other plants?
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you try to avoid environmental toxins and chemical food additives?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” those are areas that may be at the root of or at least exacerbating your headache, Dr. Rawls says. And beyond general diet, there are certain foods and ingredients in particular that can be a major source of headaches on their own.
“Different people can be sensitive to different things and may have specific food triggers,” Dr. Rawls says. If you suspect a food sensitivity, try keeping a food diary, noting what you eat and how different foods or dietary patterns (such as fried foods or gluten-heavy meals) affect head pain.
While any food could theoretically be the culprit, there are a few known troublemakers. If you consume any of the following, especially in high quantities, it likely plays a role in your headache:
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
A common additive in processed foods, MSG can dilate blood vessels among other actions, and cause headaches. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that increases sympathetic overactivity, which lowers the threshold for headaches and is sometimes a precipitating trigger of headaches.
If you consume caffeine regularly, missing a day and not getting your daily fix can trigger a withdrawal headache. On the other hand, too much caffeine — whether you drink it habitually or not — can also make your head throb. If you suspect caffeine may be related, consider weaning yourself off it. You may have to endure headaches during the withdrawal period, but then can determine if you’re better off without it.
Sugar and Other Simple Carbohydrates
If you load up on too much of these, especially if there was little in your stomach to start, the quick shift from low to high blood sugar is known to trigger headache. It’s actually been called a “sugar hangover” because the symptoms are similar to an alcohol hangover. Try to cut way back on added sugar altogether to see if it helps, or, if you do want to indulge in something sweet, opt for a small serving after a balanced, healthy meal.
This amino acid is found naturally in some foods and alcohols, even those considered healthy like nuts and aged cheeses.
Processed and cured meats like hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and deli meat frequently contain these preservative additives.
Hangover and the dehydration factors aside, beer, wine, and spirits can trigger headaches due to tyramine, sulfites, and impurities in the drinks themselves, or in reaction to the byproducts produced by your body as it breaks down the alcohol.
Headache is a common symptom of gluten sensitivity or allergy, and a gluten-free diet has been shown to improve migraine pain in those with celiac disease, according to a paper in the Journal of Clinical Neurology.
Why Don’t Common Triggers Always Cause Headaches?
Most anyone prone to headaches can relate that sometimes certain triggers cause a headache and other times they don’t. What gives? It all has to do with what’s called the headache threshold.
The headache threshold is the point at which enough stress has accumulated to initiate a headache. Typically, it’s not one stress factor, but a variety of them that build up over time. Once accumulated stress has reached the threshold, all it takes is one more thing to tip the balance and initiate pain.
For example, perhaps drinking wine is a common headache trigger for you, but you’ve noticed that when you’re on vacation, you can have a glass of wine without initiating suffering. It’s because without the stress of daily life, your threshold for having a headache is much higher, and so you can get away with exposure to small doses of triggers. Considering this, it makes sense that one key to a headache-free life is identifying and minimizing the total accumulation of stress factors in your life.
6 Natural Remedies for Headaches
When it comes to headaches, the old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure definitely applies. “Because once you’ve got a headache, you’re kind of behind the eight ball,” Dr. Rawls says.
At that point, over-the-counter pain relievers can provide relief and may be the most effective solution. “Medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can be beneficial for breaking the headache quickly, but they’re not something to use long term as they can contribute to stomach ulcers, disrupt the liver’s detox process, and cause other problems,” he says.
What’s better: Natural solutions that address the root cause of the headache rather than the pain, as well as gentle, natural painkillers that can help ease acute pain that creeps in. Here’s what Dr. Rawls recommends.
1. Stress busters
Given that stress is one of the main triggers of headaches and can exacerbate headaches brought on by other factors, prioritize lifestyle and other fixes known to keep you calm, such as:
Poor sleep and stress feed off each other and can lead to a vicious cycle, so try to get to bed at a time that allows you to log at least eight hours, and be sure to follow other rules of good sleep hygiene. These include avoiding electronics or stimulating books or TV shows before bed, and keeping your room dark and cool. The right natural sleep aids can also help you fall and stay asleep. Try Montmorency tart cherries, a natural source of the sleep-bringing hormone melatonin, and magnesium glycinate, a calming and sleep-supporting nutrient.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to manage stress and neutralize the body’s fight-or-flight response, Dr. Rawls says. So if you feel stress or tension starting to build, take a quick break and go for a walk, or even just get up and stretch or do some jumping jacks.
Beyond small activity bursts, it’s also important to make time for regular, longer cardiovascular workouts. Research has shown that exercise can help regulate pain pathways and mechanisms involved in migraines, and possibly even the underlying causes, which may reduce the intensity of headache pain. What’s more, people who exercise regularly tend to have fewer headaches, Dr. Rawls says.
Tai Chi or Qigong
These traditional forms of Chinese exercise involve performing a series of slow, deliberate, low-impact movements while focusing on breathing, relaxation, and meditation. “They have powerful healing properties and can break the stress response,” Dr. Rawls says.
Along with managing and reducing stress, research suggests both qigong and tai chi could be specifically beneficial for headaches. For example, a 15-week tai chi program improved pain, energy/fatigue, social functioning, and emotional well-being in people suffering from tension headaches, according to a study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Balancing and Calming Herbs
Herbs have the power to help regulate and stabilize the body’s response to stress, helping normalize hormones and adrenal function over the long term, Dr. Rawls says. By doing so, they help guard against stress-induced or -exacerbated headaches.
Ashwagandha, for example, has been used for centuries as a balancing herb, while more recent research has shown it to be effective at reducing feelings of stress as well as levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a trial in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. Bacopa and passionflower are also known for their calming properties; they help relax the nervous system and mind and promote restful sleep, Dr. Rawls says.
2. A Trigger-Free Diet and Plenty of Water
Because dietary factors are among the most common headache triggers, work to identify and avoid foods that you notice seem to bring on a headache, or at least start by banning the top culprits listed above from your meals. Chances are you’ll experience at least some improvement in headaches by cleaning up your diet and filling your plate with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, Dr. Rawls says. Also, because dehydration can trigger headaches, make sure you’re drinking enough water, which helps flush your body of potential headache-causing environmental toxins.
3. Magnesium Glycinate Supplements
Not only is magnesium calming and used to help with sleep, “a lot of people swear by it for headaches,” Dr. Rawls says. One potential way magnesium helps: By decreasing or blocking pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain, and by preventing brain signals associated with certain types of migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation. In fact, while intravenous magnesium quickly reduced acute migraine attacks, oral doses reduced the frequency and intensity of the headaches, according to a meta-analysis in the journal Pain Physician.
This ancient Chinese therapy has long been used to ease various types of pain, including headaches. These days, good quality studies back up its efficacy for treating both recurrent migraines and tension headaches, the two most common types. For example, a Cochrane Library analysis of studies involving more than 5,000 people reported that weekly treatments could reduce migraine frequency by half. Another Cochrane Library report found that acupuncture was also effective for tension headaches.
Inserting the thin acupuncture needles into zones and certain pressure points around your body restores positive energy pathways that may reduce acute headache pain and prevent future headaches, Dr. Rawls says. The practice may also stimulate natural pain-relieving hormones and chemicals.
5. CBD Oil
Unlike common headache drugs and painkillers, cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-psychoactive compound in the hemp plant, has emerged as a safe, natural pain reliever with little risk of side effects, even in high doses. “CBD calms neurons, and it’s a very safe substance,” Dr. Rawls says. “Like many other herbs, you really can’t take too much.”
While more research is needed specifically on headaches, it makes sense that it would work given that CBD has been shown to help with general chronic pain, plus that associated with arthritis. Scientists have, however, looked at CBD’s cousin, medical marijuana, and early findings suggest it’s effective for headaches. CBD is also known to reduce stress and encourage better sleep, both of which are beneficial for headaches, Dr. Rawls says.
6. Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is about more than nice smells; inhaling certain oils or rubbing them on skin can help ease headache pain. “Lemon balm, frankincense, and lavender are specifically indicated for migraines,” Dr. Rawls says.
Lavender, for example, is best known for its calming, mood-stabilizing properties, but a study in the journal European Neurology found that inhaling the floral aroma for 15 minutes while experiencing a migraine reduced the severity in the majority of cases. Research also suggests peppermint oil rubbed on the forehead and temples can ease tension headaches. Just be sure to seek out pure formulations of essential oils; chemical perfumes in beauty products can actually trigger headaches in those who suffer from migraines, according to a study in Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache.
While it’s appealing to seek out quick and effective pharmaceutical fixes for headaches, you’ll be better off in the long run by getting to the root cause of the head pain, reminds Dr. Rawls. And, as with any illness or ailment, the better you take care of your body by managing stress, getting enough sleep, eating well, and otherwise supporting your health, the better you’ll feel overall from head to toe.