Headaches are one of the most prevalent and vexing types of pain. To begin relieving your headache, it’s beneficial to determine what’s causing it.
Headaches are classified into two categories. A primary headache occurs in the absence of any other underlying medical problem. A secondary headache, on the other hand, is a symptom of another health problem, such as a sinus infection or high blood pressure.
The most effective treatment for secondary headaches is to address the underlying medical condition. However, there are numerous simple methods for relieving a primary headache. This is how.
How to cure a headache
“When it comes to primary headaches that have no other underlying cause, identifying and avoiding headache ‘triggers’ is the best defense,” says Vernon Williams, MD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute’s Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine.
Headache triggers can be specific aspects of your lifestyle, such as diet, stress, or sleeping habits, that contribute to headache pain. The following are the most effective strategies for avoiding or eliminating your triggers:
Hydrate yourself. If you suspect that dehydration is causing your headaches, ensure that you drink enough water each day. According to experts, divide your weight by two. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink approximately 75 fluid ounces per day. “As your body dehydrates, the blood vessels in your brain constrict in an attempt to conserve water,” explains physician Carrie Lam, MD. Additionally, avoid alcohol. Congeners, the chemicals found in alcoholic beverages, can cause headaches as well.
Consume balanced meals. If you have poor eating habits, such as skipping meals or snacking frequently, you may experience headaches caused by blood sugar fluctuations. Individuals who are prone to headaches should begin by eating three balanced meals per day that include a source of protein such as milk, fish, or meat. From there, you may be able to identify food sensitivities by noting how you feel after a meal or snack and determining which components of your diet may be causing your headaches.
Inhale deeply. Stress can result in increased muscle tension, dilation of blood vessels, and headaches, and tension headaches are frequently associated with stress. Tension headaches are characterized by pain in the forehead, scalp, and neck. If your headache is caused by stress, deep breathing techniques may help you relax. Simply slowing your breath—for example, counting to five on your inhale and then to five again on your exhale—can help you cope with stressors and alleviate headaches. Attempting meditation or yoga may also be beneficial.
Medication. “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, and caffeine are all over-the-counter medications that many patients find effective at halting the progression of a migraine headache,” Williams explains. Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, alleviates headache symptoms by interfering with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or Advil, prevent the body from producing the chemicals that cause inflammation. These medications are frequently effective in treating tension headaches as well.
When to consult a physician about a headache
“The majority of headaches are episodic, which means they occur infrequently and do not require medical attention,” Williams explains. One of the above-mentioned treatment options may provide relief, or the headache may resolve on its own.
However, severe or persistent headaches should be evaluated by a physician. Williams advises that if your headache occurs three or more times in a month, you should consult your primary care provider.
Additionally, headaches that occur as a result of physical injury or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms may require immediate medical attention.
“If a headache occurs as a result of a blow to the head, is accompanied by severe pain, a stiff neck, fever, convulsions, confusion, or loss of consciousness, or is associated with severe pain in the eye or ear, prompt medical evaluation is critical,” Williams says.
Finally, you may want to see your doctor if you experience headaches alongside blurring of vision, double vision, facial numbness, or any cognitive changes. Even if these symptoms subside, it is critical to seek medical attention.