Headaches are are quite common among adults. Although it is not often thought of as a serious ailment, some of the causes of headaches can be life threatening medical conditions. However, even less serious cases that may not be fatal can be severe enough to require emergency medical care. The pain may be unbearable and even adversely affect a person’s quality of life, ability to work and have relationships. Headaches account for as many as 4% of emergency room (ER) visits and is the ninth most common cause for patients to consult with a doctor in the United States.
While medication is effective in relieving most types of headaches and even prevent it, many headache sufferers still seek non-drug options for managing the pain. The treatment for headaches depends on the type of headache. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are by far the most type of drugs used for medication. It includes both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription varieties. But isolating the cause of a headache and attending to it is far more effective than just managing the pain temporarily. While most people will experience the odd headache every now and then, there are also many people who suffer with chronic headaches where medication is not the ideal option.
Avoid Alcohol And Caffeine
Both alcohol and caffeinated beverages can trigger headaches in some people, particularly migraine sufferers. While certain alcoholic drinks like red wine may contain substances that are known to trigger headaches, the reason why headaches are triggered by alcoholic drinks is not always clear. It is best to be cautious and avoid all alcoholic drinks rather than just specific beverages if you find that your headaches are related to alcohol consumption.
Just as caffeinated drinks can serve as a trigger, not having enough caffeine can also cause a headache among heavy coffee drinkers. If you do overdo the caffeine then slowly wean off it over a period of about 2 weeks rather than stopping it suddenly. Remember that hangover headaches are a consequence of drinking too much. So if alcohol does not trigger a headache then rather you do not overdo it when you are having a tipple.
Control Your Sleep Patterns
Maintaining a regular sleep pattern is one important way to prevent headaches. Make sure that you get at least 8 hours daily. Some people may also find that a mid-afternoon nap is helpful in avoiding nighttime headaches. And sleep is known to be an effective remedy if you have a headache. Sleeping it off in a dark quiet room can be just the thing to get rid of that nagging headache.
But too much of sleep can work against you in much the same way as not sleeping enough. If you have the luxury of sleeping for as along as you wish, you may find that sleeping more than 10 to 12 hours at a time as an adult can leave you feeling tired with a bursting headache. It is important to practice moderation with sleep – not too much but not too little either.
Avoid Stress And Relax Daily
Stress, be it physical, mental or emotional, is a known cause of headaches. It is partly a result of muscle spasm associated with stress but there may also be hormonal changes in the body that could also be the cause of a headache. Avoiding stress is easier said than done especially in this day and age of modern living with work commitments, relationship problems and financial worries. But it is about how you manage your stress rather than trying to avoid it altogether.
Take time to unwind at the end of each day. This should be a ritual where you ‘switch off’ for a few hours especially before you go to bed. Holding in the stress but not relaxing daily just adds up until it presents with symptoms like head pain. Find your own way to destress. Simple remedies like having a soak in a hot bath, exercising and techniques like yoga can be useful for most people.
Take Care Of Your Muscles
One of the major causes of common headaches is muscle strain and spasm. Even if you are not very physically active, the combination of a poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle and stress can have an impact on your muscles. It is the muscles of the back and neck in particular which may play a role in a headaches, particularly pain at the back of the head. Just as important is the muscles at the temples and forehead.
Gently massaging these areas can help ease muscle strain. If you have pulled a muscle during the course of the day then try to use ice over the area where the strained muscle lies. Heat is also very effective in managing muscle strain and spasm on a daily basis but should be avoided for acute muscle problems. Perhaps one of the best muscle remedies is daily stretching. Speak to your doctor or physical therapist about stretching exercises.
Do Not Overdo The Drugs
Ever heard of a rebound headache? It is a headache that arises when you use medication that may be intended to treat the headache in the first place. Its more likely to occur with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like aspirin or acetaminophen. While these drugs can helpful for a headache that arises every now and then, excessive use can cause rebound headaches.
You should speak to your doctor about your headaches if it recurs too frequently, is not responding to medication or getting progressively worse. Try to increase the dose of OTC medication on your own will just worsen the situation. Instead your doctor may prescribe other drugs to help your condition. Another problem is when you stop drugs that you used for a long time to ease and prevent headaches. Weaning off certain headache medication may therefore be necessary.
Keep A Diary About Your Headaches
Chronic headache sufferers should keep a diary of triggers and the severity of the head pain on different days. Taking down these notes can be helpful both for you and your doctor in identifying triggers. It may also reveal different food and lifestyle factors that may be useful in relieving a headache without drugs.
Although most medical publications reveal common triggers of a headache, sometimes a person may have a unique trigger that is not easily identified. Meticulous note taking in a headache diary can therefore be useful. Try to record what you ate or did before the headache started, give the pain intensity a score and note how long it lasts. Anything that may have eased the pain should also be noted. Also monitor the amount of water that you drink daily. Dehydration headaches are common even with a moderate water and electrolyte deficiency.
Reduce Daily Eyestrain
Eyestrain is a common cause of headaches, particularly in modern life. Its not only about going out on a sunny day without using your shades. Eyestrain often occurs during the course of daily life particularly when you watch TV, stare at a computer screen or spend long hours reading. It is worsened if you have a vision problem and do not use corrective lenses.
Always see your doctor about eyestrain or related headaches. Sometimes the typical eyestrain symptoms like redness, excessive tearing, blurring of the vision and eye pain may not be present yet a headache starts up. Here are some tips on how to avoid eyestrain particularly from TV and computer screens, poor lighting and sunlight as well as with prolonged reading.
Use Your Sinus And Allergy Meds
A headache may also be a symptom of sinusitis. If you suffer with a sinus problem then you should use the medication that your doctor prescribes to manage the condition. Sinus headaches are typically on the forehead. Even if you do not have the other symptoms of sinus congestion or your sinusitis may seem to have eased, you may still experience headaches.
Headaches may also arise with certain allergies, particularly allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Its not only a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes that may be seen. Headaches are one of the common hay fever symptoms. It may or may not be related to sinusitis which can also arise with hay fever. However, by using your allergy medication as prescribed, your headache may ease without having to pop the painkillers.