You’re heading into the busiest part of your day, and you feel it starting. That pounding, aching, nagging and sometimes icepick-sharp pain that signals a killer headache.
What does it mean? What is the cause? Well unfortunately headaches don’t just have one cause. Over 90% of adults get a headache at least occasionally, and for many of us headaches are a frequent problem.
If you get headaches frequently, if you have a fever, or if headaches are severe or interfere with your life in a significant way you should definitely see your doctor. If your headaches are just occasional and fairly mild, here are 4 things you can do to help get them better.
Headaches are often triggered by stress. If you are getting headaches suddenly, take a look at whether you’ve been burning the candle at both ends. Working overtime, studying hard, and skipping sleep can trigger headaches in susceptible people. Check here for more information about stress and how to manage it.
Sometimes headaches can be triggered by low blood sugar. If you feel hungry and shaky with your headache, that is probably the cause. DON’T eat sweets though! Eat some complex carbohydrates, protein and fat (like half a peanut butter sandwich and a small glass of milk, or cheese and crackers). Try to avoid going more than a few hours without a healthy snack.
3. Heat and cold
A cold, wet washcloth on the forehead can help a headache, especially if it’s a frontal headache (located behind the forehead). Experts aren’t really sure why cold helps, but it does. Why ask why? If it works, and it’s safe, use it!
Hot, steamy showers are relaxing and help open the sinus passages. If your headache is accompanied by a stuffy nose or cold/allergy symptoms this is likely to be helpful. For those who have their headache in the back of the head, a heating pad or rice sock on the neck and back of the head can soothe and relax tight muscles, relieving pain. Here’s a good link about how to make a rice sock.
Tension headaches are described as a band of pain around the head. They are often triggered by stress and are related to tight muscles in the neck and upper back. Having these tight muscles massaged can help relieve and prevent tensions headaches.
There is a really cool acupressure point in the pad of the thumb of the left hand. (Why the left hand? I don’t know. Also in the category of “why ask why,” LOL!) It’s not hard to find if you have a headache because it will be REALLY sore. Make an “L” with your left thumb and index finger, looking at the palm. Put the thumb of your right hand in the hollow at the base of the left thumb, and fold the right index finger over between the left thumb and index finger to press from the back of the hand. Squeeze hard. It will hurt, but the pain subsides and tends to take the headache with it. (The first time I did this with Nick was almost comical, the look of surprise when his headache got better almost instantly. Mom the miracle worker!)
If these simple measures don’t help, it’s time to see the doctor. Serious causes of headache are very uncommon, but they do happen. Better safe than sorry!