Your Headache May Not Need a Painkiller - Natural Solutions to Common Causes of Headaches

Headaches can interrupt your daily routine and make it hard to concentrate.
Headaches can interrupt your daily routine and make it hard to concentrate.

Have a headache?

If so, think twice about automatically reaching for that bottle of painkillers. Many times, a headache is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong, and simply masking pain will not fix the underlying problem. Taking too many painkillers can also eventually lead to a tolerance, which means taking a higher and higher dose just to get the same effects you once achieved with a lower dose.

Fortunately, there are many causes of headache that are easily and naturally fixed. There is a time and place for painkillers, but before you take a dose, consider this list of headache causes and simple fixes:

Dehydration

Most people walk around dehydrated and don't even know it. A good measure (albeit a gross one) is to monitor the color of your urine. The color should be clear to a very light yellow (like that of lemon juice). If it is any darker than that, it's a good bet that you need to be drinking more water, and your body is trying to tell you that by way of headache. If you have trouble remembering to stop and drink water throughout the day, a recyclable water bottle is a great accessory to invest in.

  • Note: Not all liquids are considered equal when it comes to hydration. Caffeinated or alcoholic drinks can actually dehydrate you. Try to cut down on these types of drinks, or drink plenty of water afterwards to offset their dehydrating effects.

Sleep

Perhaps what your body is crying out for is more sleep. Most Americans are sleep deprived, which can lead to poor work performance, concentration issues, slower metabolism, and headaches. The amount of sleep needed can vary from person to person, and sometimes it's hard to tell when your body is wired to wake up at a certain time due to constant use of an alarm. A great way to find out your natural cycle is to sleep without any alarm for 3 straight nights and let yourself wake up naturally. This should break the alarm-clock cycle. On the 4th night, keep tabs of your sleep time. This will give you a more accurate reading of how much sleep your body is asking for. Note: If you are sleeping the appropriate amount of time and you are finding yourself waking up in the middle of the night, consider taking these precautions:

  • Avoid alcoholic "night-caps": Although night-caps may help you fall asleep initially, the eventual breakdown of the sugar from alcohol can wake you back up later on in the night.

  • Avoid using electronic devices while in your bed: Bright screens and exciting video content can fool your brain into associating your bed with sunlight and awake-time. If you need to have a calm-down period before you turn off your lamp, try a book.

Stretching Tips

  • Stretch Every Day - Stretching is not just for fixing temporary tension. Try to do a session of stretching every day of the week.
  • Static, Not Ballistic - Hold your stretch and relax into it. Do not bounce or swing to get a further stretch.
  • Do Not Force - If you are pulling or in considerable pain while stretching, back off and stretch at a level where you are comfortable. Stretching should never hurt.

Tension

Tension is caused by muscles that refuse to relax. And tension, even in remote parts of your body, can cause a ripple effect that irritates other areas of your body, eventually leading to headache. In any case, stretching and massage of these areas tend to provide some immediate relief. The following can provide some more permanent solutions:

  • Back and Neck - These areas tend to be the biggest trouble-makers and can be caused by a variety of issues:

  1. Sleeping posture - Check to make sure you are using a pillow that creates the right kind of head support for your sleeping style. Also, if you sleep on your side, try to prevent slumping by using a body pillow to keep your back straight and provide a place for your arm to rest. Otherwise, try sleeping on your back.

  2. Work posture - Many of us spend our work-day in the same position for extended periods of time. If sitting at a desk, make sure that you sit up straight. Check that you have at least 3 fingers-clearance between the bend of your knee and the edge of your seat and that your feet are in complete contact with the floor. When using a computer, the screen should be situated directly in front you without you having to look up or down at it. If working extensively on your feet, check for adequate arches and cushioning in your shoes.

  • Jaw - If you are experiencing jaw pain or tension, it is possible that you are clenching or grinding during the night. Make an appointment with your dentist to inspect for any evidence of these symptoms. A mouth guard may be required to reduce the severity of clenching symptoms. In addition, taking a daily dose of magnesium in the evenings after dinner can serve as a muscle relaxant and prevent clenching during the night.

Have You Eaten Recently?

And even if you have eaten recently, was it full of salt or sugar? What you may be experiencing is sugar crash or dehydration from high sodium content. Proteins or complex carbs are ideal for a snack to stave off hunger headache. If you are prone to these types of headaches, small packets of nuts are ideal for carrying around or storing in glove compartments.

Caffeine Addiction

If you are a regular coffee/tea drinker, you might experience a headache if you ignore your habit for more than a day or two. If you are attempting to drop the habit, you can experience mild to moderate headaches for 3 to 4 days.

Poll

What Cause of Headache Do You Most Struggle With?

  • Dehydration
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Tension
  • Food/Diet
  • Caffeine Addiction
  • Other
See results without voting

Next Steps

Although this is not an exhaustive list, if you have attempted to address all possible causes on this list and you are still experiencing a headache, painkillers may be the temporary solution. If headaches are consistently bothering you, however, consulting a health professional would be the next appropriate step.

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