I’m on day 7 of a cluster headache attack. It’s not pretty.
Sadly, I’m no stranger to these sorts of headaches, the type that leave you feeling sick, dizzy, unable to concentrate and increasingly clumsy. Where your eyes hurt to be open, and any form of movement/loud noise/light is painful to the body.
I’ve suffered from headaches for as long as I can remember but as I get older, they’re getting worse. I’ve spent hours and hours in dark rooms, unable to sleep but unable to function. I’ve been sick on the tube and I’ve missed parties.
But I try to limit the effect that these headaches have on my life, and have researched and tested out ways to help reduce the pain and to prevent them in the first place. I know I’m not the only one that suffers from headaches, so maybe a few of these could help you too or someone you know who suffers from headaches and migraines.
Drink loads of water– I drink about 3 litres a day. I know lots of people get headaches when they’re dehydrated and I am no exception. It’s one of the only things we can actually control, so make sure you keep hydrated throughout the day, and don’t leave it until your thirsty to start glugging water. I also think Coconut Water can be a really great addition; it’s really hydrating plus a great source of magnesium.
Caffeinate– A lot of people get caffeine withdrawal headaches, and for others caffeine can be a headache trigger. However, for many coffee or tea can actually help easy a headache. Caffeine can constrict the blood vessels reducing the pain (caffeine is an ingredient in many painkillers!). I often reach for a coffee or iced latte when my headache is particularly bad.
Get your eyes tested– I only discovered last Summer that I need to wear glasses for all screen time, and actually anything up close. I really can notice the difference in my headaches when I haven’t worn them- even when checking my phone. This is such a simple change that can make a huge difference!
Take a break- from your screen or whatever you’re concentrating on. Go for a walk, get a drink or a snack, or go and talk to a colleague. A few minutes away from your computer can do wonders.
Cut back on the alcohol– I can’t drink red or white wine anymore without getting a headache, and I am much more susceptable to hangover headaches even after 3 drinks. It’s annoying, especially as a lot of my social life still revolves around drinking, but I just have to watch it. I also try to drink a ton of water and eat when I’m drinking to ease the headaches. This is potentially my most frustrating headache trigger as I always feel so lame.
Relax- stress is another of my major triggers. Not so easily avoided! After working until 10pm on Thurs eve for a tight deadline, I woke up with a raging migraine on Friday morning. Not a coincidence. I’m trying to work out ways to relaxing a little more, like yoga, mindfulness, listening to podcasts before bed to distract myself etc (I’ve got a whole post coming on this soon!)
Massage – I regularly see the amazing Josh at TwoTwenty who targets the tight areas in my head, neck and shoulders to release these hotspots. They link directly to my pain areas, and although the sessions are anything but pleasant, they really work. You can also massage your own pain points to help ease the tension.
Exercise– Getting the blood pumping can be beneficial for headache relief (plus you’ll think less about your headache is your legs are burning!) I avoid jumping and hardcore cardio workouts with a bad headache but stretching and strength can be great. You’ll also get the benefit of endorphins- nature’s pain relief!
Get enough sleep – For me tiredness is another trigger, so I try to get at least 8 hours a night. It’s best to aim to go to bed and wakeup at the same time everyday – even on weekends!
I’m also currently trying out increasing my magnesium levels and adding more anti inflammatory foods to my diet. Additionally I’ve signed up to get acupuncture in a few weeks- I’ve heard it has worked miracles for other migraine sufferers; fingers crossed!
(I also wrote a whole piece for Anne’s blog about natural headache cures and preventions – feel free to check it out!)