How to Relieve Headaches – Stopping Pain in the Throbbing Noggin!
Headaches can be explosive or passive in nature. They may start out with a dull throb but then spread quickly like a wild fire! You may feel like your brain is getting ready to explode, but it’s not the gray matter that’s causing the pain.
When the blood vessels and/or the surrounding muscles of the head and neck get irritated, they fight back by making your head feel like a bongo drum.
Everyone gets rattled by pain felt somewhere in the head every now and then. In fact, more than 60 million people in the U.S. alone have experienced a severe headache at least once and about 25 million people suffer from frequent ones.
Types of pain in the brain vary and are typically categorized as either Chronic, Tension, Migraine, or Cluster. They happen for various reasons at various times and are a major cause of days missed at work.
Hypersensitive trigger points found in the neck and shoulders can also cause them. The trigger point
T3, (Trapesius 3), can be the culprit as well as the Suboccipital Muscles. The suboccipital's have been called the ‘ghost headache muscles’ because pain referred from them seems to penetrate the skull. All suboccipital muscles attach to the bone on C1 and C2 (Cervical Bones 1 and 2 respectively) and are responsible for most all head movements. Tension headaches are often caused by inflamed trigger points in the upper Trapezius muscle. (on top of the shoulder)
Remedies are very individualistic. There is no one size fits all. The best advice is to check your symptoms, figure out which type of headache is causing the problems, and hand select your preferred fix to try. There are some preventative measures you can also take to help prevent or treat head pain.
How to Relieve Headaches
- If you clench or grit your teeth often, you may be causing your own discomfort. Most people instinctively grit their teeth without self-awareness. You should keep your mouth and lips together but your teeth apart to prevent head 'aches'. If your teeth are not clenched together, you must be relaxing them. (Clenching teeth can cause referred pain from your Temporo-Mandibular Joint.) (TMJ)
To prevent clenching and force relaxation of these muscles, rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth with the tip of the tongue resting right behind your upper row of front teeth. If this doesn't work well for you, get a dental guard.
- Any oral fixation facilitates throbbing vessels by creating tension in the jaw. Chewing gum, sucking on pens and licking your lips will all contribute to temple pain irritation.
- Taking two or more Advil, Aleve, or other types of pain relievers can reduce pain and inflammation quickly. Advil in gel form, works very quickly to enter the system and can be a tremendous help for most.
- Sleeping on your stomach can cause your neck muscles to overextend. Over time, you can build up pressure on the muscles that help hold the head upright. If you’re waking up in pain, it might be time to change to sleeping on your side or your back.
- When you don’t have a good pillow that supports your head and neck when you sleep, you are setting yourself up for more pain. Find a good pillow that has memory foam or is specially formulated for head and neck support. A good pillow should fill in the hollow of the neck between the tip of your shoulder and the bottom of your head.
- Although you may want to reach for that heating pad, studies have repeatedly shown that ice is best for vascular pain and inflammation. (migraine and cluster). Icing your head, neck, and shoulders can really help. If you don’t have a gel pack or an ice pack, you can use a bag of frozen peas or corn. They work just as well. Also, the Chillow Pillow is great for giving you cold and aligning your head correctly while you rest.
Ice treatments are especially beneficial for those types that are caused by muscle, nerve, and joint irritation. Cold anesthetizes the nerves that are causing the pain. For vascular pain, ice reduces inflammation. Heat exacerbates it!
On the Other Hand:
- While ice is best for vascular pain, heat is recommended for tension pain or sinus pain. I use it a lot when I get barometric headaches
and it works like a charm. Use a hot water bottle or a heating pad on low at the first signs. Heat helps relax tensed muscles. (Hot tubs and Steam Baths also work well!)
- Trigger foods can add too headache pain. Alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and dairy products which produce excessive phlegm, are all contributors and triggers. (Ice cream is a very well known trigger.) Women should be especially careful too, around their menstrual cycle. Stay away from these trigger foods during that time of the month if you have a history of frequent head ache pain.
- Be prepared for menstrual changes. Women who suffer from menstrual headaches should be sure to get their calcium and magnesium
levels checked. Menstrual changes deplete the body of these two minerals, which help act as muscle relaxants and prevent the tightening of your blood vessels.
Recommendations are to take 400 mg of magnesium before your period starts. While it is rare that women are deficient in calcium, I suggest consuming extra calcium-rich foods like yogurt and kefir. Continue taking any supplements you need throughout your cycle. Don’t take extra magnesium if you have heart or kidney problems.
– Each time you get a headache write it down. Record all the details of your day. A diary can help you identify your triggers.
– Even though you might be tempted to take a drink or light up, smoking and drinking can actually restrict blood flow and cause dehydration. Better to take a walk around the block and drink lots of water to increase levels. People who are dehydrated are 10 times more likely to get head pain.
- If all else fails, get some rest
the natural way. If you want to feel better faster, take an NSAID before napping.
- Trigger point pain can refer pain to your head. A sore or painful shoulder or neck can facilitate pain. To get rid of the pain, rub soreness out. If you find your shoulder hurts worse than your neck, then find T3 and massage out the lactic acid. (It will crackle when you press into it or burn like fire.)
To locate T3: Run your hand along the opposing top of the shoulder. You will feel the base of your neck, your muscle, and then a bone. The location of T3 is midway between the base of the neck and the bony protrusion. If you feel a KNOT midway, then this trigger point needs rubbing out to relax it, or simply use your fingertips to 'dig into it'. If it hurts when you apply pressure, you can bet that's referring pain.
You can also use applied pressure to diminish it. I usually have my son use his forearm and apply pressure to the trigger point when I'm sitting and he's standing. I also find it useful to stretch my neck out while he's applying pressure.
This works very well and helps loosen up those muscles that are referring pain to your head!
There is also a pressure point that's located in the web of the hand, in between the thumb and the first finger. Find it. Massage this area to alleviate your throbbing head. It really works well too!
- For unknown reasons, drinking two glasses of Gatorade can relieve pain caused by headaches almost immediately, without any unpleasant side effects.
- A soothing, foot bath of hot water and a few teaspoons of mustard powder (used in cooking and available in the spice section of the grocery store) may help diminish the symptoms. Hot water on your feet causes your body to redistribute blood flow FROM your banging head TO your feet. At the same time, mustard stimulates the skin, which also helps to divert your attention.
Whatever you do for your headaches
, don't just allow them to persist. If simple remedies don't help you much, see your doctor. Something serious might be wrong and you might need extra help getting over the pain in your splitting head.
Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.
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