Tips to Stop Headaches Before They Start
Remember the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, in the case of headaches—whatever the kind--it’s especially true. No amount of prevention will stop you from ever getting a headache again but following these tips will almost certainly diminish the frequency and intensity of the headaches you do have:
Relax and reduce headaches
- Keep sleeping habits regular. Try to sleep at least 6-8 hours per night and try to stick to the same sleeping schedule. Too little sleep (and sometimes too much) can cause a headache.
- Eliminate unnecessary stress. We know: easier said than done. But anything you can do to reduce stress and tension in your life will help decrease your chances of getting headaches. Here are some ideas:
Get a healthy amount of exercise. Exercise keeps the body and mind healthy in many ways, but perhaps most importantly for headache sufferers, it releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. One theory of why some people get severe headaches is that headache sufferers simply have fewer endorphins than other people. Anything you can do to increase endorphins may help. Careful though: very strenuous exercise can cause the type of bodily stress that contributes to headaches. Again, be reasonable. Stick to exercises and activities that make you feel good and reduce stress, not those—say, bungee jumping--that might increase it.
Don’t smoke. There are a million reasons to quit smoking, and the fact that it can make a bad headache even worse is reason number one million and one. Smoking effects the way your veins dilate and also the very blood that circulates to your muscles, and, as you’ve learned, that’s one of the key factors in the onset of a headache.
Only drink alcohol in moderation. (Come on, you already knew this one, didn’t you?) and drink some water after a night of drinking booze. Watch out particularly for red wine as it has a track record of giving people headaches.
Drink plenty of water. Most Americans are suffering from mild dehydration and don’t even know it. What’s one sign of mild dehydration? Yep. You guessed it. Headache. Drink 8 eight-ounce glasses a day and keep dehydration at bay. (Hey, it even rhymes… You’ve got no excuse not to do it now.)
Stretch your neck. Learn to remember to stretch your neck and upper body, especially if you work at a desk, in front of a computer, behind the wheel, etc. This can be enormously effective in preventing the onset of tension headaches. Also: Keep proper posture as well. Learning a few simple yoga or other stretching moves can be effective in helping you to meet both these goals.
- Take breaks: break up long car trips, intense study, or stressful work projects into sections
- Relax through meditation: Consider making stress-relievers such as yoga, meditation or massage a regular part of your routine.
- Get treated: Psychological treatments such as relaxation therapy, biofeedback and even hypnosis are helpful
Eat Healthy . Again, there are a zillion reasons to do this one. We’ll call “reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches that can accompany poor diet” reason number one zillion and one. Foods, after all, affect your brain chemistry and can change the size of your blood vessels. In addition there are certain foods and beverages which can be headache triggers in certain people. For more info on eating healthy, check out the TrustyGuide to healthy eating.
Avoid too much caffeine. A little caffeine is OK, but drinking beverages every day that give you more caffeine than what you would get in two 8-ounce cups of coffee can cause headaches.
Watch out for aged cheese. Aged cheeses such as Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella. These contain tyramine, a natural compound that can cause dilation and constriction of blood vessels.
Monitor food additives. Food additives, such as monosodium glutamate or MSG, sulfites (often used in dried fruits and wine) and nitrites (used as a meat preservative in some deli meats) are often culprits when it comes to frequent headaches.
Take aspirin or pain medication before the headache hits. We know you’re not psychic, but if you feel a headache coming on, the sooner you can get to the aspirin bottle, the better off you’ll be in fighting off the pain.