Headaches may seem common, as it sounds like everyone gets them at some point. Most find themselves reaching for OTC painkillers.
But if you’re a chronic headache sufferer, you may find that pain relievers actually lead to worse headaches and wonder if there are alternatives for them.
With the many types of headaches out there, how do you know which remedy works best for you?
To know, we must understand what a headache is, its many types, what causes them, and finally, what the most effective natural remedies you can try for the one you have.
What are the types of headaches?
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache.
Symptoms of a tension headache include the feeling of a tight band squeezing around the head and dull pain from both sides of the head, which may spread to the back part of the head or neck.
A tension headache is usually mild to moderate and does not cause nausea or vomiting.
Migraines tend to be severe in intensity, causing throbbing pain on one side of the head.
Stress or strong environmental stimuli such as bright lights and intense smells can trigger migraines.
Common symptoms of migraines include nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and visual disturbances.
Cluster headaches are similar in symptoms to migraine–throbbing pain in the head and behind the eyes.
Unlike migraines, however, cluster headaches recur over a few months and are generally shorter in duration.
Chronic headaches of this type are typically a sign of sinus infection.
They usually manifest as a surrounding pressure around the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.
Cervicogenic headaches present as a one-sided dull ache that starts in the neck and is referred from bony structures or soft tissues of the neck.
It is commonly spread to the back of the head, up to the head and/ or the face.
It is a common chronic and recurrent headache that usually starts after neck movement. It usually accompanies a reduced range of motion (ROM) of the neck.
Cervicogenic headache is often misdiagnosed as the pain is not always felt in the neck.
What causes a headache?
Classified into two types, a headache is primary when it is the main medical problem and secondary when it is related to an underlying medical condition.
Several factors may cause headaches. But some people are likelier to experience headaches than others.
A family history of headaches, having a sleep disorder, being obese, smoking, and having a high caffeine intake can increase the risk of frequent headaches.
Certain dietary and lifestyle factors
- lack of sleep
- caffeine withdrawal
- alcohol use
- nutrient deficiency
Other factors are more serious and may be warning signs of an emergency
- blood clots
- traumatic brain injuries
- medication overuse
- infections of the central nervous system
Why should you avoid OTC medication?
Regular, long-term usage of medications to treat headaches can result in medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches.
Any painkiller you use for a headache issue has the potential to trigger rebound headaches. When you stop taking painkillers, headaches caused by medication overuse typically go away.
Medication Overuse Headache Symptoms
Depending on the original headache type being treated and the medicine taken, signs and symptoms of medication overuse headaches may vary.
Warning signs and symptoms look like this:
- a chronic daily headache that often wakes you in the early morning
- painkillers relieve headaches, but the pain returns as your medication wear off
- difficulty paying attention
- memory issues
How do you naturally get rid of a headache?
From simply easing the lights and drinking more water to acupuncture and chiropractic care, many natural headache remedies exist.
Apply a warm compress on the neck or back of the head
A warm compress can ease the pain if the headache is caused by tight muscles or clogged sinuses, as in tension types of headaches or sinus headaches.
Put a cold pack on the forehead.
Putting a cold compress on the head for 15 minutes and then taking a break for 15 minutes can ease the pain.
This works by reducing inflammation and constricting blood vessels to ease headache symptoms.
Remove pressure on the head or scalp.
Headaches can also result from too-tight ponytails, headphones, and swimming goggles, among others.
Dim the lights
Bright lights can cause migraine headaches. If there is no switch to dim your lights, use blackout curtains instead.
Wearing sunglasses may help as well as adding anti-glare to your computer screens and other electronic devices.
Avoid excessive chewing
Habitual chewing on your fingernails, the inside of your cheeks, or pens can cause not only your jaw to hurt but also your head.
For tension headaches, applying gentle pressure or massaging your temples and head can help reduce symptoms.
Relaxation techniques such as stretching, yoga, and meditation may also help.
Try some ginger along with your over-the-counter painkillers
Evidence suggests that ginger is effective at relieving headache symptoms and may even be as good as prescription migraine medication.
Seek a chiropractor
Chiropractic treatment for headaches has been shown to effectively treat many types of headache disorders, such as tension-type headaches, cervicogenic (originating from the neck) headaches, and migraines.
Unlike quick-relief treatments such as taking OTCs, what sets chiropractic care is how it targets the underlying issues behind the pain.
For example, headache pain coming from the neck can be treated by addressing spine/body mechanics or nerves.
Using OTC to relieve this pain only temporarily suppresses the pain signals in the brain.
Worse, it can backfire and result in medication overuse headaches, a type of headache disorder caused by excessive medication use.
Relieve headache pain right at the source with Elite Spine Centres
OTCs don’t have to be your default option for treating your headache.
Our chiropractic care at Elite Spine Centre is an effective, natural, and holistic alternative to headache relief.
Through the expert hands of our chiropractors, you can expect your treatment to go well beyond pain relief.
Our goal is to get your headache pain to zero and decrease the likelihood of it ever getting back by tackling its root cause.
Headaches don’t have to be a regular part of your life with Elite Spine Centre’s headache specialists.
Request an appointment with one of our experts today!