Headaches can be caused by a number of reasons — not drinking enough water, hunger, stress and tension in your neck, just to name a few. No matter the cause, it’s a signal from the body that it needs attention. While that attention often comes in the form of ibuprofen or other painkillers, there are a surprising number of highly effective natural alternatives to ease your throbbing head pain. Here’s a look at some proven methods for how to get rid of a headache fast.
One of the reasons you may be suffering from headaches is that you’re not breathing properly (too shallow or frequently hyperventilating), which is very common when stressed. Consequently, your brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs and headaches ensue. Practicing yoga will help you be more mindful of your breathing because no matter what type of yoga you opt for, there is always an emphasis on pranayama (control of breath). Additionally, you may request inverted yoga poses the next time you take a class as they will increase blood flow to your head.
Ice has a numbing effect, which can temporarily help relieve the pain that comes along with headaches. Place an ice pack on your head and/or neck area. Alternatively, hot baths/showers can have a calming and muscle relaxing effect that may help if your pain is tied to stress.
This one is a bit of a catch-22 since headaches often impede your ability to fall asleep. Lack of sleep, however, is a very common cause for headaches, so try these techniques the next time you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Try the 3-Minute Soft Ball Hand Treatment
“You can do this at your desk, on a table or on the floor. This method uses gentle compression to restore hydration to the connective tissue. It’s a really wonderful indirect way to treat all sorts of upper body issues, including chronic headaches and migraines,” explains Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT Method.
“Simply grab a soft ball in one hand and squeeze it three to four times. Repeat in the other hand and notice whether your grip feels equally strong. Place the ball in between your hands at the base of your palms and with consistent compression, move the ball back and forth between the thumb pad and the pinky pad. Place the ball under the thumb pad and create small circles as you take deep breaths. This area often holds a lot of stuck stress. Now, rinse the fluids up to your neck by pressing the ball under your palm and forearm in one direction toward your elbow. Place one hand on the floor or table. Use the other hand to press the soft ball over the top of and in between each finger in one direction, from the knuckle to the nail. Squeeze the soft ball in each hand again and ask yourself if you can now create a more powerful grip with less effort. Does your grip feel more equal?”
“This technique will gently rehydrate the connective tissue, which enhances neurological regulation and can help reduce pain,” explains Hitzmann. “This is the missing link to regaining control of your body and brain and sustaining normal balance. It has been the first step in bringing relief to my clients suffering from chronic headaches and migraines. You can do this to help resolve an active headache or migraine — and proactively before a headache or migraine starts.”
Simply use a soft ball to gently stimulate the tissues of the back of the skull, the jaw and the temple. Many people have reported relief from chronic headaches and sinus pain after doing this, according to Hitzmann. See this instructional video.
If you suffer from headaches on an ongoing basis, acupuncture may be worth a try — and don’t worry, the treatment doesn’t involve needles in your head or neck! Turns out treating headaches using this ancient Chinese method is the most effective when the needles are inserted into the lower body.
Massages work best for headaches caused by muscle tension and posture problems, both of which are often tied to stress and anxiety. There are various types of massages that are thought to be helpful. This informative video highlights a variety of techniques.
It’s hard for many people to wrap their heads around meditation, but often you don’t need more than a few minutes of mind-body focus to help alleviate tension (and clenching) headaches. A study showed that 72 percent of patients with chronic pain who underwent meditation training reported significant reductions in their level of pain. The idea is that when you practice meditation, you’re learning how to consciously relax your mind, thereby relieving the physical pains that come as a result of stress. There are countless books, classes and videos to get you started. Click here for a guided meditation designed specifically for those suffering from headaches.
Headaches are a common side effect of dehydration, so make sure you’re drinking enough water. “Drink small amounts of water throughout the day,” recommends Hitzmann. “Remember, it’s not so much the quantity of water you drink as the consistency.” You should also try to eat more water-filled foods like fruits and veggies midday. “Make a habit of having a big salad each day around 2:00 p.m. and see if you have results. Try to eat frequently and make sure your blood sugar doesn’t drop. Also, try to avoid too much caffeine and sugary foods.”
If you’re a big coffee drinker, you may also want to consider cutting down on your intake. While caffeine may help a headache at first, if you consume too much, it can lead to muscle tension — and this applies not only to coffee, but any beverage with caffeine.
Pay Attention to Diet
According to Brooke Alpert, RD, founder of B Nutritious, chocolate has been found to help prevent headaches. “New research suggests that cocoa increases anti-inflammatory proteins, preventing the inflammatory pathway that causes headaches. Don’t forget to make sure your chocolate indulgence contains at least 75 percent cocoa.” Alpert also recommends that people load up on omega-3 fatty acids as they have been found to reduce headache pain due to their anti-inflammatory effect. “Try wild salmon or sprinkling some flaxseeds in your breakfast yogurt.” Lastly, she recommends leafy green vegetables and whole grains. “These foods have large amounts of magnesium. Research indicates that migraine sufferers have lower levels of magnesium. Magnesium supplements are also a safe alternative method to migraine prevention.”
Care for Your Teeth
Hitzmann suggests making an appointment with your dentist. “I have found that people who have migraines tend to have issues with their teeth. If that’s you, you may want to have someone take a look at your mouth and make sure you don’t have cracked fillings or hairline fractures in your teeth. I have a number of clients who suffered from migraines halt all symptoms once we got them to a good dentist who was willing to find out where there may be deep cracks or issues in the roots of the teeth.”