9 Ways to Beat a Killer Headache
My sinuses are a barometer — literally. I can usually tell when it's going to rain because, as the barometric pressure builds, my face feels more and more like it's going to burst off the rest of my head. I don't know why I was selected for this particular superpower. Most days, I would happily give it up for a life of normalcy. But instead, I fight the headaches. Since I also have allergies, get tension headaches, and fight the occasional migraine, the truth is that my head hurts a lot of the time. Over the years, I've come up with some things that relieve the pressure without lightening my checkbook.
1. Steam is your friend
It doesn't matter how you do it, just get some steam in those poor, swollen nasal passages. Actually, this helps me with whatever kind of headache I have — probably because it helps me relax! My favorite way to get steam is to close all the doors and windows to my bathroom and turn on the shower as hot as it will go (without me in it!). In a few minutes, my bathroom is a sauna and I can breathe again. The cleansed pores? Definitely a side benefit!
2. Drink tea
While tea is one way to get some steam, it also provides heat on the roof of your mouth. One set of sinuses sits right above the roof of your mouth, and heat helps both the swollen tissue and the clotted mucus. Tea is also relaxing, so it helps calm your muscles. If you're fighting a migraine, the caffeine can also give you the boost you need to beat it.
3. Put a warm, wet washcloth on your head
Again with the heat and the steam, as well as the fact that it just feels good. When your head hurts, you often unconsciously clench the muscles in your face. The warmth and the humidity help them relax.
4. Close your eyes
Even if your headache isn't directly related to eyestrain, closing your eyes can help. I can't find an explanation for this, though several doctors have told me to do it. My theory? It has something to do with the amount of information your mind is processing at once. This is particularly useful for stress-induced headaches.
5. Get some sleep
For me, headaches are connected to not getting enough sleep. My body just doesn't function as well when I'm not rested. When I catch up on some of these hours, bad headaches become manageable and slight ones disappear entirely.
6. Quack like a duck
Or do whatever it is you do when you need to laugh. Because laughing releases tension AND moves the muscles in your face in relatively unusual ways, it helps reduce tension headaches and allows sinuses to drain. Plus, it distracts you so you're not thinking solely about the throbbing going on in your head.
Yes, it's good for your head as well as your heart...and your lungs...and your muscles...you get the idea. The endorphins that exercising releases after a good 20-30 minutes fight headaches, too. Sometimes it takes an act of God to get out of bed, but it's almost always been worth it for me.
8. Change positions
Sit or stand in a new position. Tilt your head to one side. Just do something different. This relieves your standard points of tension, thus reducing tension headaches, and also helps your sinuses drain (because all the nasty thick mucus can find the itty, bitty hole it's supposed to drain out of). If nothing else, it gives you a new perspective, and we all know how helpful that can be.
9. Get a backrub
Actually, get someone to press wherever you want them to. There are points in the head (and back, hands, and feet) that help reduce head pain. It sounded crazy to me, too, until I found myself at a conference I could not leave with a headache that would not leave and tried it. My headache didn't stop, but it did get to the point where your standard painkillers actually helped. Apparently, most headache sufferers are pretty good at finding these points on their own — they're the places you want to be touched when your head hurts. Bizarre, but helpful.
I'm not a doctor. These are things that work for me, or that I've picked up over the years. If you take this advice, you do it at your own risk. Your doctor may tell you I'm crazy. I'm ok with that.
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