Image by: r.nial.bradshaw
By Danielle Brady
If you often suffer from headaches, you are no doubt looking for anything that might possibly help the pain.
It may seem like a simple matter of popping a pain pill. Unfortunately, if you take some pain pills too often, there are potential side effects, such as stomach problems. Also, it is possible that your body will get so used to them that they won’t work anymore, anyway.
So, it is a good idea to find other ways to deal with a headache when it strikes.
Two common types of headaches are tension and vascular (which include migraines).
If you suffer from tension headaches, the answer to relief probably lies with you.
Here are a few things you can try when you feel that tension headache coming on: relaxation techniques like stretching, heat, a cold compress, lying down and resting, limiting light in the room, and even taking a walk.
True—some of these aren’t very convenient when you are tensing up because you are on a crowded subway, or if you are at work. Regular and consistent exercise is a good way to keep yourself from getting tension headaches in the first place.
The cause of a vascular headache can be harder to determine—and the pain can be even more intense than a tension headache.
Cluster headaches and migraines fall into this category.
Cluster headaches are very painful headaches usually located on just one side of the head. These headaches come in “clusters,” meaning you may get them everyday for a certain period, like six months. They can last for a few minutes or a few hours.
It is thought that these are caused by smoking and/or alcohol. You should see a doctor if you just suddenly start having these headaches.
Women who have migraines would probably agree they are in a (very painful) category all by themselves. Your headache might be a migraine if it comes with vision problems and nausea.
Migraines may be caused by a variety of things: stress, diet—even bright lights, loud noises, or certain foods. You might even be destined to have migraines if you have a family history of them.
It is thought that foods that contain tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish) or nitrates (cured meats, bacon, hot dogs, salami) might be migraine triggers.
Women tend to get migraines more often than men, so there is some thought that hormones may play a role in migraines as well, although there is some debate about this (tell that to a woman who gets headaches once a month, every month, as part of her PMS regimen—as well as to the older woman whose migraines stopped completely once she reached menopause.)
If your migraines are interfering with your life, there are medications available to help—there are some specifically made for migraines, and sometimes even antidepressants can help, which work by altering the brain’s chemistry.
What You Can Do for Your Headaches
If you are getting headaches often, you might try keeping track of what is going on in your life right before you get them. Some women have specific things that can trigger headaches: smoking, liquor, and caffeine are common culprits. Some women even have headaches as a reaction to certain foods or prescription medications.
Start keeping a journal. Write down details about your life—what you’ve eaten or had to drink, when you exercise, how much sleep you have gotten.
Different women find that different things help their headaches. You might try different things and see if they work–biofeedback, yoga, laughing more often, acupuncture, massage–all of these are worth a try when trying to get rid of pain.
You should see your doctor if you find your headaches are constant, or if they suddenly become more severe.
Headaches aren’t just annoyances—they can bring your day to a grinding halt. Take control over your headaches and find what works for you to stop the pain.