According to the World Health Organization roughly 50% of adult individuals will experience at least one headache annually. These range from migraine or tension type headaches to cluster and medication-overuse headaches. Regardless of the type of headache, we can all agree that the pain, in many instances, is very debilitating. Headaches have many causes and it is always a good idea to check in with your physician to get to the root cause at which point different pharmaceuticals or treatments may be suggested or prescribed. Physical therapy and Massage therapy, both offered by Athletico, are two different,effective and more holistic options for headache relief as well.
As more and more people become concerned with the side effects from short and long term use of pharmaceuticals, there is an increased interest in natural or more holistic alternatives for headache relief. In addition to the physical and massage therapy mentioned above here are 8 more headache solutions you may find useful.
We have all heard the saying we are what we eat, so remember it’s important to strive for a diet that is minimally processed and high in whole foods and fresh produce to maximize vitamin and mineral content. Many foods or food additives can also trigger headaches. Some of which include alcohol, caffeine, nitrates/nitrates, tyramine, MSG, and aspartame so you may need to consider avoiding some of these items. Also don’t forget hydration, as not getting enough water in a day can also lead to headache symptoms.
These all fall under relaxation techniques which can help minimize stress as well as muscle tension to aid in the reduction of headache discomfort
Improving alignment, muscle tone, and energy flow in the body can and will decrease discomfort from headaches and research now supports the benefit of acupuncture care as a safe and helpful treatment for headache sufferers.
Luckily this is an easy one that anyone can try. Many headaches are triggered by muscle tension so applying heat can relax this tension and also helps to increase the blood flow to the area. On the other end of the spectrum some headaches are believed to trigger an inflammatory response so placing ice at the temples or back of the neck can also be a relief for some people.
Lack of enough sleep can lead to fatigue, irritability, and tension so aim for a quality 8+ hours per night. As you’re nearing bedtime avoid late night exercise, caffeine, eating too late and also make sure that lights, TVs, and electronic devices are off to help maximize your sleep quality.
Magnesium, Vitamin B2, Coenzyme Q10, Butterbur, and feverfew are some of the more popular nutrients with research behind them. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure they may not adversely react with other medications or conditions before use.
Low impact exercise as well as yoga improve circulation but also minimize muscle stress and tension which are all factors that can help to improve headaches. Here’s a link to a great article with 10 yoga positions to help alleviate headaches.
Take back some control over the muscle tension aspect of your headaches by arming yourself with some of these techniques and tools, which can help alleviate muscle strain and cramping.
The first tool is the stick, basically a human rolling pin for massaging out tight muscle. All you need to do is recruit a friend or family member to roll out some of the tension in the neck and upper back region.
Next purchase some tennis balls. A single tennis ball can be used to do a trigger point release simply by placing it on the wall or on a floor and leaning into it to apply some pressure into the muscle. Once you find a hotspot remain in that place for at least 90 seconds until the pain intensity diminishes or you feel the muscle give. You can also combine two tennis balls and tape them together or put them in a sock which you knot so that they cannot come apart. the balls will be placed at the base of the head or occiput, The two bony bumps you can feel where the neck connects to the head. lie down on a firm surface ( preferably in a room that is quiet, calm or even dark to help maximize relaxation!) in this position anywhere between 2-5 minutes to help relieve muscle tension.
Lastly here’s a great stretch to minimize the tension felt in the neck, upper back, and upper shoulder region brought on by headaches, tension, and stress. Hold each position 20-30 seconds 3 times on each side using your hand to add over pressure as appropriate.
Consider keeping a diary or journal for an extended period of time to monitor your headache occurrence and frequency as well as the food you’ve eaten, the activities you’ve done, and the sleep quality that you’ve had to help you individually figure out and manage your own potential headache triggers. If you have some other holistic headache solutions that have helped your headaches we would love to hear from you in the comments below! The ideas above are certainly not the end all be all but hopefully combined with some great medical care it gives you a good jumping off point for getting back some control over the headaches that you may suffer from. Good luck!
If you would like to learn more from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to request an appointment!
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.