Headaches happen for all sorts of reasons and it’s hard to pin down the exact one.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to nip one in the bud by cycling through a few simple approaches to short circuiting your headache before it takes full hold.
You know, that point when there is really nothing left to do but crawl into bed in a dark room.
Headaches can be a debilitating problem that most definitely decreases our quality of life.
By all means, please see a doctor and be screened for potential causes.
Once you know there is no serious health issue causing your headaches, it’s time to look at what you have control over and how you might affect change in the progression leading up to a full blown headache.
There are many things you can look at - diet is a big one with triggers like sugar, alcohol and more. I won’t dive into that in this blog but it’s worthwhile to do a bit of research and ask your doctor for guidelines. I have seen that neurologists who specialize in headaches are quite thorough in this area.
Let’s look at some of the common causes for headaches:
- Neck - Muscle Tension
- Stress - Emotional and Physical
- Food triggers
How many of you feel that your headaches can be triggered by one of these three?
Can you tell which one?
The truth is, it’s not always easy to know for sure what the trigger is, which is why I recommend cycling through a few self treatments.
Neck issues - If you suspect your headaches is caused by your neck, here are a few things to try:
- Ice to the back of your neck and base of skull
- Roll up a towel so it’s fairly firm - lie on your back and place the rolled towel across the base of your skull so it provides gentle pressure to the muscles there
- Lie on a folded blanket along your spine with another folded for head support. You should be comfortable here and feel like you can relax neck and shoulders and breathe better.
Sinus problems - if you suspect your sinuses are triggering your headaches, try these:
- Steam your sinuses - a hot shower is a great way
- Ice along the sides of your nose and sinuses
- Head down position - like a supported dog pose where you can let your head hang down for a bit - come up slowly!
Ocular - if you suspect eye strain is contributing to your headache:
- Obvious but needs to be said :) Step away from screen time including your phone
- Lie down with a cool or warm compress across eyes
- Check your glasses or check if you need glasses so you don’t strain to see
Stress - if you suspect emotional or physical stress is a contributing factor
- If possible - go for a short walk somewhere calming - I get that if the headache is full blown already this may not be a good option
- Sit on the floor in a comfortable position with support as needed. Lean forward and rest your forehead on a support - like a chair, coffee table etc - you can cross your forearms and rest your head there. Focus on your breath - just watch it as it moves in and out. If sitting on the floor is not an option - sit in a chair and lean forward onto a table with a folded blanket for support and comfort.
- Passive chest opening - Lie on a folded blanket along your spine with another folded for head support. You should be comfortable here and feel like you can relax neck and shoulders and breathe better.
I find that there is a lot of overlap with contributing factors as well as interventions that might help.
It’s good to spend a bit of time and energy considering these different categories but don’t get stuck trying to figure it out!
As you can see, the recommendations from one category will quite possibly influence a headache triggered by another. So choose your path and cycle through the others if your first doesn’t do the trick.
Learning to spot triggers as well as taking a close look at behavioral patterns is key. You all know that changing the course of a headache is much easier if you catch it early so try and work through this process when you feel one coming on.
Not when you are already in the bed and dark room stage!
This is a topic I care deeply about since I see so many people who suffer from debilitating headaches that dramatically change their quality of life.
Sometimes….. I know it's not always, you can dramatically change the course of a headache with these basic guidelines. I have helped many people through this process and plan on developing a course on this soon.
Please reach out to me with any questions.