According to the International Headache Society (IHS), there are more than 200 types of headaches. They also fall into the three broad categories primary, secondary and other. The majority of headaches fall under the first category. We know them as tension headaches, migraine, rebound headaches cluster, and headaches. Tension headaches account for 75% of the total. If you’re like most people, headaches are not common and you likely treat them with an over-the counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
You take a pill, and if you can, lie down for a while. Some people have headaches every day or several times per week. There are many things you can do to combat headache pain if this is you.
- Keep a diary – Record all details about your headaches. This includes the time and place of occurrence, what you were doing at the time, severity and location of pain, duration and what you did to relieve it. This will help you identify triggers and combinations of triggers that can cause headaches. The “usual suspects”, include certain foods, certain medications, hormonal shifts (in women), and working conditions, weather changes and bright lights.
- Control Stress – This area of our lives is something that many people talk about, but few actually do anything about. It is possible to manage stress by setting aside at least two times per day to take a “time-out” and to relax, even if it is just for a few moments. The most important thing is to recognize stress in our daily lives and take steps to reduce it or eliminate it.
- Pay attention to your diet – Your mother and common sense will tell you that healthy nutrition is essential for feeling and looking great. A balanced diet will help you avoid headaches and keep your blood sugar and magnesium levels at the right level. Your headache diary may reveal certain foods that can trigger headaches, such as red wine and processed meats that contain sodium nitrite (processed beef).
- Manage Your Sleep – There are many reasons why we may skip sleep at night. However, scientists have shown that the more time we spend sleeping (8 hours without reading or watching TV) the less headaches we will experience. You should aim to get eight hours if you don’t manage to do that. If you keep a journal and get good results, you’ll be motivated to make sure you have enough time each night for bed rest.
- Exercise – I don’t mean going to the gym and pumping iron six hours a day. Walking briskly three times per week, for at least 20 minutes, is what I mean. It would be ideal to walk for 30 minutes every day. Even if you are unable to fit in the minimum, you can still exercise by taking the stairs, parking further away when you go to work, or running errands, or getting up earlier to walk around the office. Walking is a way to increase blood flow and oxygen to your body’s various organs, which can help reduce headaches. This long-term approach to managing headaches will help you take more control of your health and consult your doctor if you have frequent or severe headaches. This will make headaches less frequent in your life.