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Headaches are truly the worst, especially when they just won't go away. From hormonal shifts during menstruation to lack of sleep, hunger, stress, and certain dietary habits, there's a whole host of things that cause and exacerbate headaches. To complicate things further, each of the aforementioned triggers is associated with a different type of headache, and all require a specific treatment to heal.
The good news is that if you know your triggers and what signs to look out for when an episode is looming, then you'll be more prepared to fend off a headache with the appropriate remedy. Learn what your symptoms may mean, and then try these highly effective natural remedies.
The Pain Point: During a migraine, you may see flickering lights, faint lines, and crosshatches; feel irritable; or have droopy eyelids, a stiff neck, eye strain, dizziness, tingling, and sensitivity to light. It's also marked by pulsating pain behind the eye and on both sides of the face or neck, which can radiate throughout your head. If your migraine worsens, it can also lead to an upset stomach and vomiting. Some triggers can be a lack of restful sleep, too much physical exertion, certain allergies or hormonal changes, stress, skipping meals (because of blood sugar drops), and changes in air pressure. While the main reason is unknown, doctors believe migraines are genetic and hormone-related, like increased estrogen levels.
The Remedy: Bright lights and a lot of physical activity can intensify the pain, so go to a quiet, dark room where you can lie still. Elevate your neck with a towel, and then use your fingers to apply gentle, subtle pressure to your head to alleviate the tension buildup by stimulating more blood flow throughout your body. Applying heat or ice to your body can also help, and what works varies from person to person. Warm compresses can relax the muscles to alleviate pain while cold compresses can numb the pain.
The Pain Point: With tension headaches, which are also the most common type, you'll usually feel the pain smack-dab in the middle of the forehead as well as the top of your head. It may feel like a rubber band wrapped tightly around your head, sort of similar to when a ponytail is too tight. You may notice some sensory sensitivity, strained eyes, and a dull pressure building up around your head as well as sore muscles around your neck, shoulders, and scalp.
The Remedy: Close your eyes and apply light pressure to your eyelids for a few moments. Focus on your breathing and try to relax as much as possible, as stress or anxiety can be one of the main reasons for a headache. A guided meditation to get rid of a headache may help. A mind trick might distract you from the pain:
Step 1: Close your eyes and ask yourself where your headache is the most painful, what color it is, and what shape is it.
Step 2: Say your answers out loud.
Step 3: Repeat four times.
Drink plenty of water, too, as dehydration can be one of the main causes.
The Pain Point: If you have plugged ears, nasal congestion, achy teeth, and other flu-like symptoms along with head pain, it's probably a sinus headache. Like with a migraine, you may experience pain behind your eyes as well as at the cheeks and bridges of your nose. They can be caused by an infection or allergic reaction, which is why medical professionals refer to them as a secondary type of headache (hangovers fall into this category as well).
The Remedy: Because these headaches are usually caused by other issues like an infection or allergy, the best way to treat them is by figuring out if you have a virus or bacterial infection. A virus can usually be expected to subside in 10 to 14 days, while a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics. In the meantime, breathing moist air from a steamy shower, applying a cold compress, and drinking plenty of fluids can help relieve symptoms.
Running a humidifier nearby can also help prevent sinus headaches.
The Pain Point: Cluster headaches happen on one spot on your head, usually unilaterally. It's a stabbing, piercing pain. These attacks come in clusters at a certain time throughout the day, hence the name. Some warning signs that an attack is nigh are watery or red eyes and nasal congestion on one side.
The Remedy: Unlike other types of headaches, you shouldn't lie down, as that can increase the pain. Cluster headaches happen all of a sudden and intensify quickly but typically only last about five to 10 minutes. You may feel restless during a cluster attack because the sharp pain is so excruciating. It's sort of like when you stub a toe and just want to shake it out more rather than letting it be still. Incorporating more foods with anti-inflammatory properties into your diet is a great idea since this relieves the pressure buildup in your brain. Magnesium also helps. Rub peppermint oil on the back of your neck and temples to relieve muscle tension.
8 Things That Can Help Get Rid of a Headache
Migraine Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated December 31, 2019.
Gryglas A. Allergic Rhinitis and Chronic Daily Headaches: Is There a Link? Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2016;16(4):33. doi:10.1007/s11910-016-0631-z
Wei DY, Yuan Ong JJ, Goadsby PJ. Cluster Headache: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Clinical Features, and Diagnosis. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2018;21(Suppl 1):S3-S8. doi:10.4103/aian.AIAN_349_17