We have had a flurry of clients presenting with headaches in the past month. The age range of these people were from 8 years old (yes!! only 8!!) to 62 years old. And since I had been asked over and over again, "What can i do to prevent headaches?" I thought it best to first inform them (and you) that you cannot prevent something you already have. Prevention only applies when you want to stop yourself from getting headaches in the first place.
So if you're suffering from a headache, getting the right diagnosis is essential as this will result in the right treatment. The right treatment will give you a new lease on life. Contact me if you'd like to learn more. For those looking for home remedies for headaches, look no further. Here's your answer!
1. Rest in a quiet dark room
Lights off! Yes, that includes phones, tablets, computers and the TV). No sounds and no smells either. All of these senses can heighten during a headache or migraine attack and make symptoms worse. Many people find switching off and eliminating environmental stressors really helps, especially for those who suffer tension headaches or migraines. Close your eyes and rest. Of course, you can sleep too!
2. Relaxation exercises
We all need to relax a little. Especially when you've got a headache. Stress, be it physical, mental, emotional, chemical or spiritual is the main causes of headaches and migraines. Breathing techniques like "4-6-2" are great to bring down the hyperactive mind as well as reduce the muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and back.
Here's how to do the "4-6-2" breathing. Take a easy controlled breath in through the nose for an entire 4 counts. Immediately breath out through the nose for a full 6-counts. Pause for 2 counts before beginning your 4 count inhale again. Repeat for 10 cycles, or as long as you like. Try to make the transition from breathing in to breathing out natural and smooth, like waves on the beach, washing up on the sand and then immediately returning to the sea.
3. Gentle Neck movements
Getting mobility in the spine is an essential part of reliving headaches. Why? Because many headaches (tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches and even migraines have are caused by stress and have either muscle, or nerve implications contributing to the headache pain itself.
Gently drop your chin to your chest and hold it there for a breath in and out. Then raise your head to look up at the ceiling, one breath again. Next turn your head all the way to the right, take a breath in and out, then rotate your head to the far left and take another breath. Finally tilt your head to the right (right ear to right shoulder), hold it for a breath, and then tilt to the left. Repeat 3-5 times.
4. Heat or Cold
Hot or cold treatments have been a great provider of pain relief for centuries. Heat, via hot water bottles, heating packs or a hot shower can be great to ease muscles aches, and stiffness. By placing heat on your neck, shoulder and upper back muscles, it is especially effective for tension headaches.
Though heat feels good at the time, some people respond much better to cold therapy. Ice packs wrapped in a damp cloth are great for soothing not just ankle sprains and sports injuries, but also headaches and migraines. Ice can be placed over the eyes, forehead, temples and even the neck and is especially good for migraines.
One of my personal favourites, massage is so relaxing (except for when they find those tight, knotted up spots!) Massage is a great way to release stiffness, tension, trigger points in your hardened neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. Of course, gentle head massage around the face, temple, jaw and scalp offers amazing relief and feels amazing too!
The best thing about massage is you can also opt to do-it-yourself! Using your own finger pressure, or self-massage tools like backnobbers, back buddy, head massage tools, foam rollers and trigger point balls - there's plenty of ways to release those tight muscles.
Stretching helps relax muscles, increase blood flow and offer a sense of ease. Stretching can be done in many ways for pretty much any and every muscle. Stretches should focus on the neck, upper back and shoulders. One of my famous neck stretches, the "Chicken Wing" stretch is amazing to relieve headaches and migraines. Two weeks after teaching a group of people who attended my seminar, "Eliminating Headaches and Migraines", one lady reported amazing news. After 19 years of severe headaches, and consuming anywhere between 10-20 Panadol (paracetamol) daily, she no longer suffers headaches.
If you've met me, you'll know i'm not an advocate of medication - especially if it is self-prescribed or given to you by a concerned friend or colleague. Medications are great (and usually instant) pain relief, but certainly does not address the reason why you are getting headaches. As the lady mentioned the the paragraph above, taking Panadol doesn't solve any problems, it merely helps her get by for now (in the short term). Nineteen years later (long term) she still had headaches.
A final thought on using any headache or pain relief medications is that constant usage (some experts say more than three days a week) may cause "medication overuse headaches". Stopping medications may also cause "rebound headaches".
8. Get adjusted.
Chiropractic adjustments have helped many of my clients who suffer from headaches and migraines. After 4 weeks of adjustments, a 48 year old accountant was finally free of the headaches he had experienced for his entire professional accounting career. Staring at small numbers, spreadsheets and documents all day long was no longer a strain, his quality of sleep improved and he could wake up feeling refreshed, instead of waking up with a headache.
The American Chiropractic Association cites research which demonstrates that spinal adjustments may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A 2014 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that interventions commonly used in chiropractic care improved outcomes for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and increased benefit was shown in several instances where a multimodal approach to neck pain had been used (1). Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches (2).
1. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with neck pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2014; 37: 42-63.
2. Bryans R, Descarreaux M, Duranleau M, et al. Evidence based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2011; 34: 274-89.