More than eight million Americans visit the doctor with headache complaints each year. That number is even higher for those suffering from migraines. You can ward off pain with these easy everyday steps and easy headache relief tricks.
Headache Relief Tips
Get your eyes checked.
Squinting and straining are common causes of tension headaches, especially in older adults. As you age, the lens of your eye hardens and your eye muscles get weaker, forcing your eye to work harder to focus. “Just like any other muscles in the body, these muscles fatigue, which can lead to straining and headaches,” says Dallas-based ophthalmologist Karen Saland, MD. Make an appointment with your eye doctor if it’s been more than a year since your last vision exam or you’re having trouble seeing clearly.
Dehydration causes your blood volume to drop, resulting in reduced blood and oxygen flow to the brain that can leave your head hurting, especially in the summer. Make it a point to sip throughout the day, even if you aren’t thirsty. Your body’s ability to retain fluids decreases with age and your sense of thirst weakens. On the plus side, it’s easier than ever to stay hydrated with tasty new calorie-free options on the market—try Simply Balanced Sparkling Water in Ginger Peach ($2.99 for 8, Target).
Pay attention to your posture.
Hunching or slouching can cause tightness and strength imbalances in your neck muscles. That can irritate the sensory nerves in the neck, causing a pain signal feedback to the brain, says Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center neurologist Kevin Weber, MD. Put a Post-It on your desk or set an alarm on your phone for every hour to remind you to sit up straight. Still find yourself slouching and suffering the consequences? Have your doc refer you to a physical therapist, who can help you retrain your posture.
Steer clear of trigger foods.
You’ve probably heard that foods like chocolate, aged cheeses and cured meats contain compounds that can set the stage for migraines. But everyone’s triggers are different—even very cold or very salty foods can be to blame—so instead of cutting out common culprits, do your homework to find what affects you. Keeping a diary that includes what you ate or drank before your headache started can help pinpoint your triggers. Smartphone apps like Migraine Buddy (free, Android and iOS) make it simple.
Beware of “letdown” headaches.
It’s well-documented that stress can cause headaches. But you may have noticed another phenomenon: a headache that comes on just after you’ve pushed through a deadline or major event. It’s called a “letdown” headache, and it can spoil that blissful relaxation time you’ve been eagerly anticipating. The best way to prevent one? Don’t wait to relax until it’s too late: Build in short spurts of meditation, yoga, reading or whatever activity relaxes you throughout even the busiest days and weeks. You’ll avoid getting caught in a vicious cycle of stress and pain.
Get enough sleep.
People who slept an average of only six hours a night tended to have more frequent, more severe headaches compared to those who got more sleep, according to one study published in the journal Headache. Aim for more sleep—seven to eight hours—and if there’s no improvement, consider seeing a sleep specialist. Your headaches could be caused by a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Stay ahead of the pain.
From rainy weather to a whiff of strong perfume, there are some migraine triggers that you just can’t avoid. So be proactive by keeping your medication with you at all times and taking it at the first sign of a headache. You’ll be more likely to stave off severe pain, Weber says, or even stop your headache altogether.
Wine purifiers like Üllo promise to aerate your vino and filter out compounds like sulfites that are thought to make your head pound. While they might make your wine taste better, filters probably won’t prevent pain, since there’s no conclusive evidence that sulfites in wine trigger headaches. “We aren’t sure what specific substances in wine cause migraines in some people,” Weber says.
Next up, learn easy remedies and tips for migraine relief.