5 Proven Techniques to Prevent Headaches
Experiencing headaches can be challenging, but there are ways to manage them. Keeping track of the things that trigger your headaches, maintaining a healthy eating pattern, and getting sufficient rest can help you reduce the frequency and intensity of your headaches without medication.
A headache is a pain in the head or neck, and it can range from a mild ache to intense throbbing. Some types of headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.
Studies indicate that engaging in regular exercise can aid in preventing headaches. Nonetheless, some individuals experience a throbbing pain in their head and neck area after exercising, referred to as an exercise-induced migraine.
If you experience a headache while exercising, take a break and drink water. To relieve the discomfort, use a cold compress like a bag of frozen vegetables or ice cubes wrapped in a towel.
Other forms of physical activity, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, can reduce tension and stress. Taking restorative yoga, which focuses on breathing techniques and gentle poses, can be particularly helpful for headache sufferers. Avoiding foods that can trigger migraines, such as caffeine, MSG, and processed sugar, is best to prevent migraines. Maintaining a food diary can also be useful in identifying the specific triggers that cause your headaches.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Although it’s impossible to prevent every headache, headache management through a healthy diet and exercise habits can significantly lower the frequency and severity of these attacks. Staying hydrated, maintaining regular meal and sleep schedules, and eliminating trigger foods can improve your symptoms.
For instance, some people find relief by avoiding gluten (even without celiac disease), dairy, and tyramine-rich foods such as aged cheeses, sausage, cured meats, and certain alcoholic beverages. Keeping a food journal can help identify headache triggers.
Sometimes, dietary and lifestyle changes and daily medication can be enough to stop frequent headaches. If your headaches don’t respond to these measures, consult your doctor about underlying medical conditions like fibromyalgia and thyroid disorders that can cause headaches as a symptom. They may recommend a blood test or imaging tests, such as a CAT scan or an MRI of the brain, to rule out these problems.
Getting good sleep is an important tool for migraine prevention. Poor sleep more often predicts a headache the next day and increases pain sensitivity than good sleep.
Eliminating foods that can trigger headaches, like caffeine, processed meats high in nitrates, chocolate, sugary soda, and alcohol, can help with quality sleep. Some people also find that reducing or eliminating food allergens, especially gluten helps with sleep and headaches.
Learning relaxation techniques, like stretches, meditation, or yoga, can help relax muscles that may cause tension headaches. Some people with headaches also report better sleep after addressing their emotional and physical stressors. Keeping a headache diary can help you learn what triggers your headaches and how long they last so you can make the changes that work for you.
A chilly shower can help relieve a headache, especially if it’s caused by sinus pressure or a heat buildup. Stress is a major headache trigger. Even normal levels of anxiety, frustration, crying babies, honking horns, and late bills can make you more likely to get a migraine. One option is biofeedback, which uses electronic sensors to monitor muscle tension, skin temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure to teach patients how to control them.
Relaxation training is most effective when used before a headache starts, and it gets easier with practice and during follow-up office visits.
See Your Doctor
Suppose you experience headaches that are so severe that they interfere with work and family life. In that case, visiting your primary care provider or using your health plan’s telehealth service to discuss treatment options is important. You can also schedule an appointment with a headache specialist if your symptoms persist or worsen.
Maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated, regular sleep and exercise, and reducing alcohol and caffeine can prevent or reduce most headaches. Keeping a headache journal can help identify food or environmental triggers, and many people find that moving away from processed foods to whole, made-from-scratch meals and taking daily multivitamins and supplements, including magnesium and riboflavin, improve their headaches. Visiting your doctor is the best way to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing or contributing to your pain.