woman with a headache

Having Killer Headaches? Try These Cures

Headaches are the second most common form of chronic pain, and, when your head is truly pounding, it can be hard to concentrate on other parts of life, whether this may be work, driving, or even having a simple conversation.

Rather than reaching for the drugs, give one of these tips a try the next time you are having a killer headache.

Sip on Ginger Tea

Ginger has long since been used to treat a variety of ailments, by cultures all around the world. Now, thanks to a number of clinical studies that have been carried out with this ingredient, scientists are backing it too.

So, what exactly does ginger do?

It targets the blood vessels in the head, reducing inflammation and therefore reducing pain. This is especially useful for those who suffer from migraines, as migraines are caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head.

The quickest and easiest way to make use of ginger is by steeping the root in some water to make a tea, adding in some fresh lemon juice if you would like an extra tang.

ginger tea

To use ginger topically, mix together a paste with some ginger powder and a couple of tablespoons of water, and apply this directly to your forehead for a few minutes.

Stretch It Out

Headaches are often caused by muscle tension, and this can sometimes be relieved through stretching.

There are a few stretches in particular that will help to target the muscles that often contribute to headaches:

  • Stretch your neck by moving your chin forwards, upwards and then towards each shoulder, before repeating
  • Shrug your shoulders upwards, and then forwards and backwards, before repeating
  • Press your palm into your forehead and hold it there for a few seconds, before pressing a hand onto each side of your head
  • Rotate your neck in clockwise and anticlockwise directions

Try to do these stretches twice a day, repeating each stretch three to five times, with a five second break in between each one.

Give Acupuncture a Try

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of different health issues, with thin needles being inserted underneath the skin, to rebalance the body’s flow of energy.

Sound painful?

It really isn’t. All you will feel is a slight tingling feeling when each needle is inserted.

However, there are only certain headaches that acupuncture can treat…

There are two main types of headaches out there; primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension headaches and migraines, while secondary headaches are brought on by another health condition, such as a head injury or allergies.

Acupuncture is mainly used to treat primary headaches, whether this may be a frustrating headache that seems to return each day, or a migraine that seems to never completely disappear.

acupuncture

Each session lasts for around 30 minutes to an hour, and the cumulative effects of a few sessions can be a long-lasting way to prevent any future headaches.

Drink Up

Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration, and these can often be quickly cleared simply by drinking a few glasses of water.

This method can work for a variety of different headache types, from tension to cluster. Even if you do not feel dehydrated, drinking a few glasses of water is an easy method that is still definitely worth a try.

Beverages containing electrolytes are also a great way to boost hydration, and could help if plain water does not seem to be working quickly enough.

Take a Screen Break

If you have been spending a significant amount of time staring at a screen, whether this may be your computer at work, your TV at home, or your smartphone, this could be the reason behind your tension headache.

Try taking a break from your screen for a while, and seeing if that eases the pain.

Whether or not your screen is causing your headaches, you should really be taking regular screen breaks anyway, even if this is just for a few minutes at a time to have a drink of water or stretch your legs.

Use a Compress

Another easy method to soothe a headache away is to use a compress, holding this against the back of your neck.

hot compress

Wondering whether to go hot or cold?

If your headache is more of a dull pain, go with a hot compress, whereas if it is pulsating or throbbing, use a cold compress. This will help to lower the temperature of your blood before it enters your brain, reducing any inflammation.

Sniff A Soothing Scent

There are certain herbs out there that have scents capable of clearing even the roughest of headaches.

Here are a few to try:

  • Peppermint Oil – opens up clogged blood vessels in the head and regulates blood flow. Either mix some with water and rub this on the back of your neck, as well as your temples, or simply rub some crushed peppermint leaves on your forehead. You could also make a herbal tea with peppermint leaves, either fresh or dried, and sip this slowly, while inhaling the scent.
  • Lavender Oil this is another herb that is known for alleviating headaches, and can simply be inhaled straight to enjoy its benefits. Alternatively, mix a couple of drops in with some almond or olive oil and massage your head with this, or put a few drops into some hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Rosemary or Thyme Oil rosemary and thyme oil have been used for centuries to treat headaches. For best results, dab a drop of the oil onto each temple, as well as onto your forehead, and massage this gently into your skin.
  • Basil Oil works as a muscle relaxant, so will clear headaches caused by muscle tension. Make a tea with fresh basil leaves, or simply chew on the leaves themselves. You can also place some fresh leaves into hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Cloves contains cooling and pain-relieving properties, making them great for throbbing headaches. Crush a few cloves and wrap them in a clean cloth, before inhaling the scent repeatedly. Alternatively, mix some clove oil with coconut oil, as well as a bit of sea salt, and use this to gently massage your forehead and temples.

Try Yoga for Tension Headaches

If you know that your headaches are caused by tension, then yoga is something that you may want to try.

Why?

Yoga relaxes the muscles in your head, neck and back, while boosting circulation to your upper body and brain, all of which can quickly relieve a tension headache.

As soon as you notice the first sign that a headache is on its way, you should give a few of these yoga poses a go, as this will prevent your muscles from going into spasm:

  • The Simple Seated Twist
  • Gomukhasana Arms
  • The Side Stretch
  • Grabbing Opposite Elbows

Take a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium used to be abundant in the plants and animals eaten by humans, but, due to a depletion in soil quality, natural sources of magnesium are hard to come by.

Why does this matter when you have a raging headache?

Because one of the most common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is a headache, especially migraines.

Not only do people who experience migraines have lower levels of magnesium in their body than people who do not, but one study found that a regular intake of magnesium could actually lower the frequency of developing a migraine by 41.6%.

Wondering which is the best form of magnesium to take as a supplement?

Go for magnesium oxide, of which you will need between 400-500 milligrams each day. Even if your migraine has already started, taking a magnesium supplement immediately can help to soothe it.

Need some help right now, but don’t have any magnesium supplements to hand?

Try snacking on one of these:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Blue poppy seeds
  • Cashew nuts
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate

sources of magnesium

See if these sources of magnesium help with your migraines; if they do, you can count on having them regularly.

Eat Some Headache-Busting Foods

There are certain foods out there that contain compounds capable of quickly soothing a headache.

Feel the pain beginning to come in?

Head on down to your nearest grocery store and stock up on these ingredients:

  • Cherries – contain a compound called quercetin, which is not only a strong antioxidant, but also has anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin helps the body to block out pain, reducing the severity of a headache. Eat around 20 tart cherries to experience the effects, or a glass of cherry juice.
  • Spicy Foods whether you go siracha or hot peppers, spicy foods will clear your sinuses, and therefore open up your airways. This alleviates any pressure and soothes the pain of a sinus headache.
  • Bananas bananas are packed with B vitamins, which increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, meaning that they work in a similar way to an anti-depressant. This then lowers the amount of pain that your body feels, reducing the severity of a headache.

While you are dealing with a headache, it is also important to avoid headache-triggering foods. From cheese to processed meats to artificial sweeteners, try to stick to a wholesome diet when healing your body.

Walk It Off

While you may not feel like exerting yourself too much when suffering from a killer headache, exercise is actually a great way to relieve yourself of the pain.

How?

Exercise triggers the body to release endorphins, which are basically the body’s natural painkillers. If you begin to exercise regularly, you will notice a reduction in the frequency and intensity of your headaches, as well as your migraines.

So, the next time you feel a headache coming on, step outdoors and take a brisk walk, preferably somewhere quiet. Even if this is only for ten minutes, this is still enough time to stimulate your brain to release the endorphins that will soothe your head.

Relaxation Exercises

While additional research in this area is still needed, current studies show that relaxation exercises could really help reduce the intensity of a headache.

What exactly are relaxation exercises?

They could be anything from listening to calming music, using mental imagery to unwind, or doing some deep breathing.

Try this the next time you have a headache:

  • Lie still, breathing in and out slowly
  • Think of a mantra and repeat this in your head, to stop your mind from wandering
  • Beginning with your toes, contract and relax your muscles one at a time, working your way up your legs through your body, until you reach your head.
  • Take your time with this, so that it takes around 20 minutes

Change Your Pillow

If you tend to wake up with a headache in the morning, this could be down to your pillow.

Pillows are designed to keep the head in line with the neck and spine while a person is sleeping, but if you end up with your head being misaligned, this can lead to headaches.

Pay attention to your pillow density, as those that are too soft do not provide enough support, while those that are too hard can lead to other problems.

How often should you be changing your pillow.

Every few months, or when they start to lose their original form. 

When suffering from killer headaches, it can be easy to just reach for the pills to numb the pain, but this is not something that you want to be relying on in the long run. By giving some of these methods a try, you may just find an easy, and completely natural, way to soothe a raging headache.

 

Don't Let Motion Sickness Get You Down

Planning a getaway this summer? Maybe you’re contemplating a little cruise on the Atlantic, a cross-country car trip, or maybe your plans involve a long international plane ride. You packed some snacks, put together a CD playlist, the kids have their iPod, and you even googled travel games on the computer in case the Wi-Fi goes out. You’ve done everything you can to make sure the trip goes off without a hitch. But, as they say, it’s all fun and games, until someone gets motion sickness.

What is Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness may go right up there with deja vu when it comes to examples of the human brain working in mysterious ways. While exact causes of the sickness, known medically as ketosis, are not fully understood, most experts agree that it occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages from different parts of the body that respond to motions. The sensory confusion creates dizziness, which activates the brain’s ‘vomiting control center,’ and the result of this is probably not going to be one of the more pleasant memories from your vacation.

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of motion sickness are; a general feeling of illness, nausea, vomiting, headache and sweating. Symptoms tend to go away after the movement stops.

Different medicines thrown on top of a table.

How Is It Treated?
If you want to prepare for motion sickness, you may want to put some pharmaceuticals on your packing list. Some of these medications require a prescription and should be taken before traveling for best results. The best medicines for reduction of nausea and vomiting are:

  • Scopolamine
    This comes in the form of a patch which can be placed behind the ear
  • Antiemetic
    This reduces nausea. Examples include ondansetron, or Zofran, and prochlorperazine, or Compazine.
  • Antihistamine
    Some antihistamines, like dimenhydrinate, Dramamine, and meclizine, Antivert or Bonine, relieve nausea, but they also may cause drowsiness.

If You Find Yourself in The Throes of Motion Sickness, You May Want To Try The Following:

  • Eat some dry soda crackers
  • Drink something clear and fizzy, like ginger ale
  • Get some fresh air
  • Lie down, or try not to move your head

Avoiding Motion System
Of course prevention is the best medication. If you know you are prone to motion sickness:

  • Keep your head as still as possible
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before traveling
  • Avoid eating and drinking during short trips
  • Avoid strong smells and spicy foods

Couple in a car.

In The Car
If motion sickness hits you while you’re in a car, try and sit in the front seat and avoid reading and watching TV.

In A Plane
If the plane travel triggers your motion sickness, eat small easy to digest meals before and during a long flight to reduce nausea and vomiting and request a seat near the wings.

On A Ship
Sea sickness is the most common form of seasickness. If you’re planning sea travel, your best strategy is to book a cabin near the middle of the ship near the waterline. Try and sit in the middle of the boat, get as much fresh air as possible and keep your eyes focussed on a fixed point on the horizon.

Other Methods
You may hear of the efficacy of taking powdered ginger capsules or wearing acupressure wristbands to prevent motion sickness. Although they are safe to use, there is no evidence of their helpfulness.

Do you suffer motion sickness? Let us know what you do to prevent it from turning your dream destination into a travel nightmare.

Woman holding head

Avoid These Migraine Food Triggers

CBS 2 news. The anchorman sends it over to Serena Branson the Staples Center where the Grammy Awards are letting out. A pretty, smiling, blond woman appears on the screen holding a CBS microphone. She opens her mouth to speak, but, rather than words, what emerges is a series of garbled, unintelligible syllables somewhat resembling the English language. The nation looks on horrified.

What happened to Serena Branson? According to later reports, Branson was suffering from a medical mystery diagnosed as a “complex migraine:” a unilateral, painful headache that can affect the speech and vision. Migraines are a debilitating condition affecting over 300 million people worldwide, most of whom are women. While there is no proof that diet triggers migraines, experts agree that certain foods can cause them. If you are one of the 300 million migraine sufferers, here are some things you may want to know about the food-migraine link.

Alcohol
Lucy Rathier, PhD and associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University, says, “If someone tells me that a certain food triggers their migraines, I’m not going to argue with them. They should avoid that food.” If you’re one of the one out of three people who say alcohol triggers their migraines, you should probably heed Dr. Rathier’s advice.

According to Noah Rosen, MD and director of the Headache center at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute, alcohol’s effect on migraines has been proven in studies. “People single out red wine or dark liquors, but unfortunately any alcohol can be a trigger,” he says.

Other Possible Culprits

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
MSG is a food additive commonly found in restaurant foods and processed foods to enhance flavor. Studies find it to be a cause of migraines in up to 15% of sufferers.

Caffeine
While some caffeine can ease the swelling that causes migraines, and is even an ingredient found in some pain relievers, beware of overdoing it. Rosen says, “if you drink more than 120 mg a day and you miss 60 mg,” it might result in a headache from withdrawal.

Caffeine

Speculated foods
Rosen puts cheese and preserved meats into a category that he calls, “speculated foods,” or foods that have not been scientifically proven to cause migraines, although many people claim that they do. Rosen also acknowledges that some triggers may be even less common, pointing out that two of his patients say that garlic triggers their migraines. Says Rosen, although “it’s not common, in these people, it may be the case.”

Is Food The Cause of Your Migraine?
If you get a headache within 12 to 24 hours of eating a certain food, you should consider it a possible trigger. The best way to target triggers is to keep a journal or use a migraine app. to track them. Because most people have more than one trigger, Rosen recommends taking notes on 20 to 30 attacks to best determine which foods are causing the headaches.

Once you discover which foods might be triggering your migraine, eliminate them from your diet for a month, one by one. If you notice a change for the better, you may want to consider cutting the food out permanently, or at least when your risk of migraine is highest. For women, high risk may be associated with certain times in the menstrual cycle.

Eating Regularly
It may not only be what you eat that is causing your headaches, but also how often. Rosen says, “Skipping meals and dehydration are both significant triggers. We know this from what’s called ‘Yom Kippur headache’ or ‘first day of Ramadan headache,’ since both events require fasting.” Experts recommend eating five or six small meals during the day, especially to those suffering from migraines

If you suffer migraines, let us know what your triggers are. You may have some valuable information.

Woman headache

Triggers For Cool Weather Pain

You may have heard the expression, “kill the messenger,” and indeed that may have been what you wanted to do when, on Groundhog’s Day, this year, the prognosticating rodent came out of his whole and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. As American columnist and author, Bill Vaughn once said, “The groundhog is like most other prophets, it delivers its prediction and then disappears.”

Although many of us have our own reasons to wish for the early end of winter weather, it is especially understandable for those of us who suffer from cold weather pain. However, if you are included in this number, there may be some precautions you can take before you go on a bloodthirsty hunt for old Punxsutawney Phil. Here are some common triggers of cool weather discomfort you may be able to avoid.

Winter Air
The two main sources for skin hydration are healthy fats and moisture from the air. However, when the air gets dry, there is less moisture for the lips and skin to absorb, which can lead to chapping and flaking. Lip licking can exacerbate the problem and lead to cold sores and dehydrated skin can crack and even bleed, leading to possible infection.

Barbara Doty, MD and family physician says, “Develop the habit of caring for your skin on a daily basis. Have easy access to lip balm, use a good moisturizer, and avoid excessive use of soap.”

Woman shovelling snow

Shoveling Snow
According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, about 11,500 people are treated for snow shoveling injuries yearly, and the wetter the snow, the heavier it is. Sandra Fryhofer, MD explains, “Shoveling puts strain on your heart. If you have heart problem get someone else to do it.”

However, even if your heart is in good condition, you need to take precautions. Fryhofer suggests waterproof shoes and an ergonomically designed shovel, which is lightweight and has a curved shaft to help keep your back straight when you use it, Dr. Doty advises that you, “Pick up smaller portions of snow for less weight per shovel.” It is also best to use your legs rather than your back to lift and to shovel in both directions, rather than in one, to avoid strain.

Dark Days
Headaches are signs of seasonal affective disorders. According to Laura Knobel, MD, changes in barometric pressure can trigger migraines and less sunlight can cause a vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to an increase of headaches in the winter and fall.

“If headaches are due to lack of sun,” says Dr. Knobel, “natural spectrum lights can make a big difference for some people.” She also suggests using garden grow lights to grow indoor plants as a relief from winter blues, adding, “Seeing the seedlings grow can give you hope that spring is on its way.”

Woman coughing

Dehydration
Dehydration is a problem in winter as well as summer. Not drinking enough water can make you achy because it prevents the body from processing waste products efficiently.

Try to maintain a healthy water intake by sticking to plain water rather than warm caffeinated drinks, like black and green tea or water. Dr, Doty warns against caffeinated beverages, “which are diuretics,” and leave bodies at a hydration deficit.

Colds
Of course one of the biggest causes of winter pain is the common cold, or flu, and the dry air can make it worse. Doty says, “In winter, nasal passages get plugged more easily, and with a lot more mucus, it can get irritated down in the back of your throat, which means you can’t clear it as well.” To avoid sickness, get your annual flu shot if you haven’t already and try natural remedies and get plenty of rest to soothe symptoms.

Are you thinking of throwing rocks at the groundhog? If so, we want to hear from you. What are your most common cold weather pain triggers and how do you avoid them? Let us know!