Last week on Monday I woke up with a bad headache – one that was enough to make my stomach queasy. I did my usual routine to keep it at bay and by noon I was feeling quite a bit better. In my early days of headaches I probably would have suffered for a few days. I still have a ways to go in terms of headache relief but I have definitely learned a lot along this not so fun journey.
During a conference call for work the next day I was talking to one of my female coworkers who told me she was glad the call was on Tuesday and not Monday because she had also suffered from a headache on Monday and wouldn’t have been able to join the call. We talked for about 10 minutes about our headaches and what we do to get rid of them and how people just don’t understand. I could talk about headaches and relief from them like I can talk about my love for Trader Joe’s – LOL. That conversation made me realize just how prevalent headaches are for women and how, like many things us mamas do, we learn to just live with them. Sad, right?
Over the years I have learned some methods beyond Ibuprofen to combat my headaches. I love to find home remedies for things and although I have no problem taking pills when my head hurts, here are some ways I have found to help them go away when they arrive or even better, to keep them from coming in the first place.
Now, I know you all know, but I will say this anyways, I am certainly not a doctor. If you get frequent headaches it is probably a good idea to go to a doctor or a specialist to get help (talking to self….) There are some great options out there and there is no reason to suffer. With that being said, there are still some things you can do on your own because we all know that drugs don’t always solve every problem and wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to worry about these buggers in the first place?
Ok, so here are the things that help me….hopefully some of these ideas and suggestions will help my fellow headache sufferers as well!
- Essential Oils – If my family reads this they will roll their eyes at first, but then once they are done with the eye rolls they will secretly and wholeheartedly agree with me because deep down they know. The first thing I will do when I feel a headache coming on is to rub some Peppermint Oil on my temples or forehead (depending on where the headache is.) For me this works because my allergies and sinuses are one of the reasons I get headaches and Peppermint Oil helps to clear my head up pretty quickly. Peppermint also feels wonderful on an aching head because of the cooling effect. Just be careful not to get it too close to your eyes as it will burn a little. I buy my oils at Whole Foods and through Amazon and I feel very confident about the quality – just do a little research. Some other great essential oils for headache relief are Lavender, Eucalyptus and Rosemary.
- Hydrate – One of the biggest things I have done over the years to decrease the frequency of my headaches is to drink more water. As a matter of fact, whenever my girls tell me they aren’t feeling well (or pretty much have any ailment) the first thing I will tell them to do is drink more water. It is almost a joke with us now, but kind of like the essential oils, once they are done rolling their eyes at me they go drink some water. A lot of times headaches are caused simply by dehydration and isn’t it great to know that there is such a simple remedy??
- Avoid Alcohol – This is probably one of the harder pieces of advice to swallow but honestly, this is probably my #1 headache trigger. I don’t avoid alcohol completely (although sometimes I consider it,) but I do pretty much know what I can drink and how to drink to avoid headaches. I no longer drink wine because that seems to be the worst offender – definitely not red and rarely white. I avoid real sugary drinks, too. Rum is off my list, sadly. I really only drink beer (ideally a light beer), bourbon or vodka (with something not too sweet as a mixer.) When I drink alcohol I make sure it isn’t on an empty stomach and I try to eat something with some fat in it. I also make sure I drink plenty of water and I don’t drink very much of course!
- Epsom Salt Baths – This is one of my newer remedies and boy do I love this one. This is even a great thing to do if you don’t have headaches because it is a wonderful way to relax. Epsom Salt baths help to reduce muscle tension which is great, but Epsom Salt is actually not normal salt, it is Magnesium and one of the things that helps to get rid of headaches is….you guessed it, Magnesium. Plus, sitting in a warm bath and relaxing for 20 minutes doesn’t hurt anyone, right? To take an Epsom Salt bath just pour 2 cups of Epsom salt into a warm bath and soak for about 20 minutes. I always feel more relaxed when I am done and usually if my headache isn’t completely gone, it definitely feels much better. You can also buy Epsom Salts with herbs like Lavender or Eucalyptus in them.
- Stretch- For many headache sufferers one of the culprits is either muscle tension or poor posture. I have found that if I stretch my back, shoulders and neck my headache will either go away or diminish. I love the stretching equipment at my gym and I always start my workout going through the stretches listed on the front of it. If I am feeling tight this machine does wonders! Livestrong also has some great stretching exercises to relieve tension headaches. Yoga is great, too!
- Avoid Chemical Fragrances – This is another BIG trigger for me. There are lots of studies out right now that talk about harmful side effects of the chemicals that make up fragrances in products we use (outside of essential oils.) I first noticed this when I would go into the office. Every single time I had to make a trip into the office I would get a headache. At first I thought it was from mold or dust in the ventilation systems (which is still possible,) but then I realized it was because of the fragrances that people wear. I was wearing more fragrance when I went into the office, too! Luckily I work from home most of the time, but still…..not sure how to completely avoid this one? Cleaning products with heavy scents do the same thing which is why I am also a big fan of my Norwex products. Don’t even get me started on scented garbage bags…the worst! Now when I smell anything that has added fragrance I notice it immediately…..and run the other way! Essential oils are a great way to add a nice scent to things without the chemical fragrance.
- Exercise – Not sure why I put this one further down the list and it certainly isn’t last in importance, but this is definitely a great way to not only alleviate but avoid headaches. Granted, sometimes overexerting yourself can trigger an achy head (and some people do get exercise headaches), but overall, getting exercise, keeping those muscles loose and releasing endorphines is an excellent way to keep headaches at bay. Even if the last thing you feel like doing is going for a run when you are in pain, just tell yourself you will go and do an easy workout to at least get yourself to the gym and get moving.
- Manage your Diet – To me, this one might be the hardest to figure out. Sure, you can keep a food journal to identify headache triggers, but that isn’t something I have done to be honest. You could also avoid things like coffee (gasp), processed foods and sugar. I generally try to eat pretty clean, but I do drink lots of coffee and not sure I would give that up?
- Stress Less – I noticed for a while that I would get headaches on Thursday/Friday and after a bit of research and digging I realized these might be attributed to peaks in stress mid week and the easing of tension around Thursday afternoon. Apparently the release of stress can cause headaches as much as the stress itself and I determined that this was one of my triggers! Even if you don’t have a highly stressful job the “go go go” that tends to happen mid-week might cause stress that you aren’t even aware of. I try to make sure I find time to de-stress mid week and this has seemed to help a lot!
- Sleep – This isn’t one that affects me (at least not that I am aware of) but I know that irregular sleep patterns can cause headaches for a lot of people. There is a correlation between stress and sleep so there is that, too. I have never had a problem going to sleep and I try to go to bed at around the same time every night (even weekends.) While my issue with sleep might be that I wake up too early, I try to keep my patterns pretty regular. I’m not a huge napper but sometimes when I have a headache just shutting my eyes and relaxing for 15-20 minutes can help a ton.
So hopefully this list will help my fellow headache sufferers. I get headaches a LOT less than I used to since I started to 1) understand my triggers, 2) found ways to either stop my headaches when they start or to keep a bad one from getting worse. I still have a ways to go in headache relief (like getting my allergies in check,) but I hope this helps. If you are a fellow headache sufferer I would love to hear ways that you avoid or alleviate your own!