Headaches are the worst. They can sabotage a perfectly good day, and often make us overly-reliant on pills and medications that all of us don't necessarily want in our bodies too often. Luckily, there are several truly solid headache hacks that don't involve drugs, and are also pretty fast-acting.
According to The Mayo Clinic, the cause of most chronic headaches aren't understood. However, there are headaches that are specifically caused by headache medication overuse. According to The Mayo Clinic staff, "If you're taking pain medications — even over-the-counter analgesics — more than two days a week (or nine days a month), you're at risk of developing rebound headaches." At the same time, the site also noted that if you have frequent headaches, you're "more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other psychological and physical problems."
OK, so frequent headaches can lead to a variety of other health factors, but overusing medications — even aspirin — can lead to more headaches. The question then becomes what are the most effective headache treatments that will relieve our pain, but not potentially result in more pain in the long run?
This is where natural remedies can be hugely helpful. If you're someone who suffers from headaches many days of the month, or even are just looking for ways to cure the occasional issue, here are seven at-home remedies that may help.
1. Lavender Oil
According to health prevention writer Sara Calabro with Everyday Health, lavender oil is a great home remedy for headaches and migraines. Just apply two to three drops to every three cups of boiling water and inhale the vapors. It can also be applied topically if you just want to dab it on you and surround yourself with the scent if you don't have time to create a vapor treatment. And if lavender isn't your thing, the smell of peppermint oil can also help soothe tension headaches by opening up blood flow in your body.
Now Foods Essential Oils Lavender, $7.94, iherb.com
2. Capsaicin Cream
According to an article on natural headache remedies on DoctorOz.com, creams made with capsaicin pepper are a natural pain reliever that help block our body's pain transmitters. The experts recommended applying a small amount on the inside of your nostril on the side of your head where you're experiencing pain. Capsaicin cream is available in most health food stores, or you can even make your own.
3. Self-Massage For Sinus Headaches
According to a study from the National Institute of Health, regular weekly massages decreased rate of headaches and stress levels in a randomized, controlled test group of migraine sufferers. Additionally, since a lot of headaches and discomfort can be caused by sinus congestion, regular sinus self-massages can be a great tool of relieving this kind of pain.
4. Relaxation Training
In an article for Health, Edmund Messina, M.D., medical director of the Michigan Headache Clinic in East Lansing, said she teaches a 20-minute relaxation technique to her patients in which here patients lie still, breathe in and out, and repeat a mantra to prevent their mind from wandering. Additionally, according to an NIH study, chronic tension headache rates were markedly reduced among patients who underwent relaxation training.
Cochrane, a medical review organization dedicated to high quality health information and informed-reviews, found that acupuncture serves as a "valuable non-pharmacological tool in patients with frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches," and also that it could very well prevent acute migraines. So if you're a chronic, severe headache sufferer who doesn't want to rely on harsh pain-relievers, acupuncture could be a very helpful addition to you health-maintenance routine.
6. Get Moving
Usually getting out and exercising is the last thing we all want to do when we're suffering from an uncomfortable or even immensely painful headache, but according to an article in The New York Times, getting moving is actually immensely helpful in reducing headache symptoms, and can even dramatically reduce their occurrence in chronic-headache sufferers. As much as a non-gym-goer like myself hates to admit it, exercise really is important.
7. Omit Certain Foods
According to Calabro, certain foods are often linked to severe headaches, especially migraines. "Certain foods have been shown to affect the frequency and severity of headaches and migraine pain, including dairy; chocolate; peanut butter; certain fruits, such as avocado, banana, and citrus; onions; meats with nitrates, such as bacon and hot dogs; foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG); foods containing tyramine, an amino acid found in red wine; and foods that are fermented or pickled," Calabro said. If you're having a lot of trouble with headache pain, try keeping track of what you eat in a food journal for a week or two to see if you can track down any food-related triggers.
Headaches are never fun, but you don't have to be at their total mercy, nor do you have to always rely on harsh medications to keep them under control. By monitoring your diet, getting enough rest, and having a few natural hacks on hand, you'll be well prepared to tackle the problem, drug-free.