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In fact, many common and super simple lifestyle habits can help reduce your headache pain without you ever reaching for a pill. Sometimes headaches result from tension in the upper body due to muscle strain from poor posture or a rigorous workout routine. Massage therapy may be able to reduce chronic pain as well as ease muscle tension that causes headaches. Take the time to research types of massage Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu, etc. For the cold portion, place ice in a plastic bag covered with a thin cloth to avoid harming your skin. For the hot portion, you can purchase a heat pack at most drugstores, or make your own using uncooked rice.
Take a small pillowcase or piece of fabric and fill it about two-thirds full with uncooked rice. Sew or tie the open end together. When needed, microwave the rice for one minute. Apply to the back of your neck or forehead for heated relief. Aromatherapy is the study of how certain smells can trigger positive and even healing responses in the brain. Some smells have been reported to soothe and reduce the incidence of headaches. These include peppermint extract, eucalyptus, and lavender oil. They are readily available at many local health food stores or online.
Acupuncture involves applying fine, sharp needles to key areas on the body as a means of promoting energy flow. Yes, breathing. You know, that thing you do all the time already! It may sound silly, but tension-related headaches can sometimes be relieved with regular breathing exercises that help focus your mind and ease your muscles. Start by finding a quiet place with a comfortable chair in your home, office, or other location where you will not be distracted. Next, take slow, rhythmic breaths, breathing in for five seconds then out for five seconds. As you relax, your muscle tightness reduces.
You can also try a progressive relaxation technique by focusing on each major muscle group in your body. Start from your toes and work your way up. Dehydration can contribute to a headache, but it can be easily avoided. Grabbing a good old-fashioned glass of water can help as much as an electrolyte-containing beverage such as Pedialyte, Gatorade, or Powerade. Drinking too much coffee or too many caffeine-filled soft drinks can lead to headaches.
So if you normally start your day with a Starbucks quad latte, you may want to trade it for a toned-down mixture of half caffeinated and half decaffeinated. Alcohol, and particularly red wine, can also lead to dehydration that triggers headaches. We hear a lot about the health problems caused by lack of sleep, and not getting your nightly minimum can lead to chronic headaches. But knowing you need more sleep and actually getting it are two different things.
There are several ways you can improve the amount and quality of your sleep, including the following. Commit to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at regular times. Even if you just go to bed 15 minutes earlier or sleep 15 minutes later, this can be a step in the right direction. Avoid stimulants in the hours before bed. Stimulants like alcohol, sugar, nicotine, and caffeine can keep you from sleeping and keep you up at night with trips to the bathroom. Give your body time to wind down before your head actually hits the pillow.
Choose a relaxing activity before bed. Turn off the television or computer and treat yourself to a good book or a hot bath. It may sound old fashioned, but a little relaxation goes a long way! Certain foods, while delicious, have been known to contribute to headaches. If you identify a particular trigger, avoid it for some time and see if the headaches reduce. Possible problem foods include:. Caffeine-containing foods and beverages. Examples include chocolate, coffee, cola, and tea.
Monosodium glutamate-containing foods. MSG is used as a preservative and has traditionally been used in some Asian cooking. Nitrate-containing foods. Most simple meats, such as hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage, and pepperoni can cause headaches. Tyramine-containing foods. The warmth and comfort of a steaming cup of herbal tea makes it an excellent way to wind down at night. Those same soothing qualities can have pain-relieving effects.
Rachel Nall is a Tennessee-based critical care nurse and freelance writer. She began her writing career with the Associated Press in Brussels, Belgium. Although she enjoys writing about a variety of topics, healthcare is her practice and passion. Nall is a full-time nurse at a bed intensive care unit focusing primarily on cardiac care. She enjoys educating her patients and readers on how to live healthier and happier lives.
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