10 Surprising Ways To Kill A Headache Without Drugs!
How can you cure headaches naturally?
Of course, pills work for some. Only, sometimes you would like to manage without. Perhaps you get headaches often (let’s hope, not of the hangover variety), or perhaps you believe in a natural approach. In my case, the tablets simply don’t work. I need an alternative.
I do struggle with headaches quite often. But not every headache is the same, and they have different causes. There’s tension headaches, sinus headaches, headaches that are brought on by foods, migraines, and of course the kind of headaches we get from accidental gluten exposure. Each headache requires a different solution, and to work out that solution it helps to understand where these headaches come from.
Famous amongst bloggers, over-achievers, chronic worriers and office workers, the tension headache is a bugger that’s hard to shake. For me personally, the pain starts either in my jaw or my neck and spreads across my whole head. Sometimes the headache spreads from a flare-up of RSI and inflammation in my right shoulder (from too much typing, can you believe it), making my face feel as though it is too tight for my skull.
You might have heard the term “rubber band headache”, and that’s exactly how it feels; as though there’s a very, very tight rubber band around my head that I can’t release. This headache makes me want to stretch my skin and pull on my face -and I can see it coming from miles away.
This type of headache is often a result of not taking enough work breaks, tension in my shoulders from stress, clenching my jaw, or lengthy uncomfortable seating or sleeping positions (such as long-haul air travel).
I once broke my nose playing European Handball (yes, very different from the Australian handball) when I was younger, and never really went to the trouble of fixing the problem. As a result, I happen to have become ridiculously prone to sinus infections. And boy do they hurt. The pain stretches from your forehead, down past your eye sockets and above your cheekbones.
Sinus pain can be brought on by colds, flus and allergies. I also find that a day out in London (and especially on the tube) will trigger sinus headaches.
Sinuses are air-filled cavities on your forehead, above your teeth, between your eyes, and behind your nose, and the mucus lining can become swollen and irritated, leading to infection and/or pain.
When the sinus headache arrives, it’s there to stay until you sort your sinuses out. Last time it hit, I woke up one morning with a black eye! I thought perhaps my husband had knocked me in his sleep, but as it turns out, black eyes aren’t all that uncommon with sinus infections.
Food intolerance related headaches
There are certain foods that give me headaches. I do my best to avoid nitrates in foods, certain food colourings that are known to cause reactions, sulfites in food and wine , and strong flavoured cheese (although I do love a good French cheese. Unfortunately).
Furthermore I have found that my diet in general palys a big role in causing or preventing headaches. If I miss meals or forget to drink water, I’m sure to get a headache.
This little number is one I have apparently inherited from my father. My dad’s had migraines for as long as I can remember (often times after work parties..ehm), and my little brother had a cruel variety of the same disease as a child. -He had something they refer to as “childhood migraines”,and they were especially violent. When I asked him about them recently, he said that he used to dread the upcoming weekends as a child, because they brought with them, almost without fail, terrible migraines.
My migraines, however, only started once I had turned 30, and ironically enough stepped in with vigour to play supporting act to my coeliac disease. Goody. Ever since then I’ve been stuck with them, and I’ve had to find ways of coping.
What are the symptoms of migraines?
Migraines, to me, mean days -or weeks even, of horrible, insomnia-inducing, all-consuming pain. A thumping, pulsating evil, soldiers on across the right side of my face like a marching band on speed, twenty-four hours of the day. Forget food; my stomach turns at the mere thought of life itself, and there is absolutely no sleeping, ever.
Migraines manifest in different way for different people, and you can learn more about the different symptoms of migraine on this link.
Usually my migraines start quite suddenly. Often they arrive in the shape of stomach upset-turn-nausea, dizziness, flu symptoms and sharp pains to my head like lightning bolts or knife stabs. When they arrive I know I’m in for hell.
When the headache starts it is so all-consuming that I can’t bear anything. I get so tired from the pain that it reduces me to tears, and equally exhausted from people telling me “It’s just a headache -take to two aspirin and man up”.
Migraines do not make for a relaxing sick day on the sofa where you sniffle and catch up on your reading.Not only are migraines painful, but they are also dreadfully boring because they won’t let you read, watch TV, work from home or even play on your phone. In fact, they won’t let you do anything!
Physical activity exacerbates the pain, talking to people hurts, driving a car is out of the question, and even sleeping it off is off limits. It truly is a really sucky disease.
The infamous and temporarily crippling headache we all have in common. Admittedly I don’t battle this one much anymore. The hangover was a phenomenon of my early twenties, although when I do get one these days it seems far more severe than it did back then -even though I consume a fraction of the alcohol. Old age hey. No longer worth the hassle.
We’ve all had a hangover. You can pretend not to know all about it, but I won’t believe you as far as I can throw you. You might not be much of a drinker (I most definitely am not), but if you have drunk at any time, even if it was just one stupid little high school party, you have probably had a hangover. And my bet is that you, to this date, remember it vividly!
Hangovers are a unicum in the world of headaches. Most importantly because they are entirely self-inflicted, but also because they are TERRIBLE. They come and go like a rocket and you don’t really have to worry a whole lot. -You know you had it coming, and you know it will pass. In fact, if you find yourself suffering from hangover headaches in a chronic capacity, I think you’re probably in need of a very different remedy to what I can offer here. On that note, I will bypass the hangover cure altogether, and let you suffer the implications of your rockstar life. My best advice; don’t worry, by 5 o’clock you will have forgotten all about it (and you’ll probably be scoping out the next party already)!
(Nb: Substance addiction is not to be taken lightly. If you, or someone you know, has trouble with substance abuse, you can visit the NHS alcohol abuse help page.)
So, how do you kill a headache naturally?
Forget painkillers. Personally, I can (though I don’t) pop pills till the cows fly home; they don’t do anything at all. Others find that painkillers offer some relief, but not enough, and need to supplement with other alternatives. Either way, there are things that help, and they’re way better than pills!
To cope I have developed certain strategies, some work for certain headaches, and some work pretty well all-round. Here are my top 10 natural ways to kill a headache:
This is my number one trick and absolute go-to! For me it works pretty much every time.
One of the prerequisites for this trick to be effective is that you’re not a heavy coffee drinker in your daily life. If your body is already accustomed to the coffee high, chances are you will either get little to no effect or you’ll need an amount three times your usual to feel the benefits. -Which would leave you with side effects. Not to be recommended.
The reason coffee works, is the same reason some types of migraine medication works. In fact, certain headache painkillers now use caffeine for added effect. The addition of caffeine to painkillers helps the body absorb the drug more efficiently, but it also has other uses.
Throbbing headaches and migraines can be caused by swelling of small vessels in the brain, which is reduced by caffeine. Caffeine also works by blocking the actions of certain receptor molecules on the surfaces of some brain cells (2), which hinder the effect of a brain substance called Adenosine. Adenosine affects many aspects of brain activity, such as temporary widening of blood cells and certain types of movement and sleep. Adenosine levels in the brain go up during a migraine attack.
One small controlled study found that caffeine was better than placebo, and as good as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches (1). Caffeine also provides an added bonus of increased awareness and well-being, which comes in handy when you’re feeling down and out.
-such as “Migrastick”, “4head” or peppermint oil sticks. They really do work! I can either tame an upcoming headache before it kicks off, or sometimes even dodge it,
from a hefty application of one of these. I carry one with my wherever I go, and I swear by them.
There are also gel patches. I don’t find the patches to be as effective, but if you’ve never used these types of products before you might not need as strong an application as I do as a seasoned “user”.
My favourite has to be “Migrastick” which I used to buy in Australia. In the UK I use “4head” which I find alright although not quite as strong. Also, the Migrastick lasted a lot longer. I go through about 3 “4head” sticks in the time it would take me to use up 1 Migrastick. I’m not saying there aren’t other great (perhaps even better) brands out there -these are just the ones I’ve happened upon and stuck with.
Go easy when you first start using them, and do make sure you don’t rub your eyes. If it gets anywhere near your eye area, you are in for a hellfire!
I once went a bit vigorous on an aeroplane, and set off a whole “I’m going blind! Somebody help me!”-situation. Not pretty.
Don’t limit yourself to temples; I rub it all over my neck, forehead and even jaw. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned 🙂
The awesome “ice-pack-on-the-neck-and-feet-in-the-tub” trick!
It’s all about cooling down your head and drawing that pulsating blood away from those swollen vessels. I fill the bottom of the tub (or a
bucket) with warm water, sit on the edge of the tub with both my hands and my feet in the water, and an ice pack on the back of my neck.
This method is miraculous! Not only is it very soothing to feel the cold on my neck when I have a throbbing headache, but it really does have an actual long-lasting effect too.
Give it a try, you will be amazed at how well it works!
An Epsom salt bath works wonders!
Fill your tub with warm (not hot) water, add an extra large quantity of Epsom salts (read the label) and soak for 15 minutes. If your headache is tension related, this should ease the stress and soften your muscles. For added effect, you can let your neck rest on a padded ice-pack (not too cold) whilst you’re soaking. This will “draw the blood” from your head so to speak.
In combination with an Epsom salt bath, for a tension headache, I use a foam roller to soften knots using pressure point release. You can find some easy and effective foam rolling exercises in this post.
The toothbrush trick!
I also have a very special (weird) secret weapon that seems to work absolute wonders for me. It is unconventional to say the least, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it
I discovered this trick in pure and utter desperation. One night as I was brushing my teeth, after hours of overpowering banging on the inside of my skull, I just about couldn’t take it any longer. I looked up at my droopy eyelids and flushed face in the mirror with dread. I wanted out so bad. I was so tired.
As I soldiered on with my dental hygiene, I felt the vibration of my electric toothbrush on my jaw. It felt nice. A bit like targeted electrical impulses that put the pain at bay. Before I knew it I had detached the brush head and I was pushing the vibrating tip into my temples. SWEET RELIEF!
The harsh vibrations of my electric toothbrush laid against my temples, base of my skull, and targeted spots on my head where the headache is prevalent, provides an incredible relief. I have looked for an electric head massager that might provide the same relief, but believe it or not; there’s no head massage better than that of a Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean. Go figure.
It makes me look as though I’m a couple’sandwiches short no doubt, heck my husband laughs himself silly. But what does that matter when days of pain and darkness disappears into the background. Oral-B, I’ll run you through my hair any day!
Go for a walk in cool, fresh air!
Unless you are experiencing migrains that are exacerbated by physical exercise, a brisk walk will do you a world of good. Movement will release tension, the experience will take you mind off the pain, and the fresh air (especially if it’s cold) will have an effect similar to the ice pack.
When I go for a walk during a bad headache, I force my eyes open into the wind a little. This produces tears and “cools down my eyeballs” which feels oh-so-good! On a side note; Did you know that tears release toxins from the body which have been built up by stress? Perhaps you should listen to an emotional piece of music on your walk? Emotional tears release even more toxins than tears from irritation. How’s that for a fun fact!
The strange but effective sinus horn!
What about sinus headaches, you say? They are in a league of their own. Most conventional tricks won’t help, because there is a lingering infection inside your head which needs to be removed before there is any relief to be had.
Antibiotics, you might think. But no, did you know that the majority of sinus infections are viral? That means any antibiotics you take will contribute to nothing but the general overuse of these miraculous but dangerous drugs. Don’t do it unless you HAVE TO. Be critical towards what your doctor says. Take it from a serial-sinusitis patient; you probably don’t need antibiotics!
Firstly (and this is where it gets gross), unless you are experiencing congestion and severe sinus pain, nasty coloured mucus and blood, and also a fever; it ain’t that bad! It may feel bad enough for you to wanna take any drug under the sun, but don’t. Try this amazing trick instead:
Rinse your sinuses morning and evening (and even more often if you’re really in pain) with a nasal horn and clean salt water. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but the effect is unbelievable!
Rinsing your sinuses also helps to battle the common cold, as well as allergies. If you rinse regularly during the summer months you can take a massive load off your hayfever too!
When you rinse your sinuses you get rid of all the rubbish that is causing you the pain. You will not believe the relief! Only if your symptoms don’t improve or get worse (with a fever) after 4-5 days of rinsing, do you need to consider other treatments.
I hate using antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because my coeliac tummy hates it. I always, without fail, turn to rinsing first! When my sinus infections have gotten really bad, my doctor has prescribed me a steroid nasal spray, which in combination with rinsing has taken care of even the most stubborn infection.
Drink plenty of water!
This is not a trick so much as a well-known necessity. It is said that often times it is the glass of water, rather than the painkiller, that fixes the headache. Sufficient hydration is alfa and omega for killing headache. Preferable you drink enough to avoid the headache in the first place, but once it’s there, make sure you drink plenty (and then some) water to ditch it!
Steam with peppermint oil!
Inhaling steam from a vapouriser or a boiling pot of water, mixed in with peppermint oil, can help soothe the pain of tension and sinus headaches. This might not be a great trick for migraines, but for other headaches it works a charm. Once again, you can rest an ice pack on your neck whilst you inhale. You can also add some drops of oil to your shower or bath.
Yes, I said it; sex can actually relieve headaches! We all know that the all-time favourite excuse for being “left alone” is to blame the headache, but the truth is that the endorphins and stress-relieving hormones that are released during sexual activity will help remove the headache all together! You will also benefit from release of muscle tension and not to mention distraction!
So, even though you might not feel like when Bob The Builder has taken up camp inside your skull, sex can actually be the one thing that chases him off. Sure beats panadol, doesn’t it!
Mix and match treatments
Do what I do; combine these tricks and find out which combination works for your particular problem. Headaches are different for everyone, and only you know what your body responds to.
Most importantly; take some time to listen to your body. Where is your headache coming from? In order to find the right treatment you need to know what you’re treating. Only then can you apply the right remedies. The old wartime wisdom rings true also for headaches; “know your enemy”.
I hope this inspires you to think outside the pill-box, and find new ways to deal with your pain. Many of these tips can be applied to other aches and pains too; don’t be scared of trying as it can’t do any harm!
As always; if you do have health concerns you should consult your GP before changing your treatment plan!
Do YOU have a brilliant trick? What is YOUR best tip for treating a headache?
Post your comment in the field below and share your knowledge!