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6 Ways to Get Rid of Your Headache

Guest author Dr. Leana Wen discusses the 6 different ways you can get rid of a headache.

By
Leana Wen, MD
April 3, 2013
Episode #119

6 Ways to Get Rid of Your Headache

Got a headache? You’re not alone. Headache is the most common symptom that patients complain of during doctor visits. Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from regular migraines, and nearly a third report having a severe headache within the last three months that interfered with their daily activities.

Here are 6 ways to get rid of your headache:

1. Rest. Most people feel better after closing their eyes and lying down. This is a common treatment for migraine sufferers, and for people with stress-induced headaches. Most of us will benefit from a rest, so find a dark place and close your eyes.

2. Relax. Even more common than a migraine is a headache induced by tension. However, especially for those who are accustomed to living a stressful life, relaxing is easier said than done. Try various techniques to decrease your stress levels: stretching and breathing exercises, massages, yoga, and meditation.

3. Drink. Water, that is. Dehydration contributes to headache, and this is a problem you can fix yourself.  Simply drink two glasses of water when you feel like your headache is starting; this can help to curb it before it gets worse.

4. Exercise. If your head hurts, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But for some people, particularly those who may have tension headaches, exercise can really help their symptoms. Regular exercise can also help prevent headaches from occurring, so try to build in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week.

5. Take anti-inflammatory medications. Tylenol and  ibuprofen can reduce headache symptoms. Take 650mg of Tylenol and 600mg of  ibuprofen when your symptoms first start. It’s OK to take these together, and to repeat in 6 hours if you need. Be careful: Other products can contain these ingredients, in particular Tylenol (acetaminophen). So check the label of  any other medications you’re taking to make sure you are not overdosing on any ingredient.

6. Consider alternative treatments. Though there is no clear evidence that alternative therapies are effective for headaches, some people have great results from acupuncture, for example. Certain teas, such as peppermint and lemon-ginger, have also been associated with alleviating headaches.

Of course, it’s always important to be on the lookout for more serious causes of headache, for example, sudden onset of the worst headache of your life, fever, numbness, weakness, vomiting, or other concerning symptoms. If this happens to you, call your doctor immediately.

Know that everyone is different, and you should try various therapies to see what works for you. Finally, as with everything, prevention is the best medicine; sleep well, eat well, de-stress, and practice good lifestyle habits!

Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency physician and author of "When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnosis and Unnecessary Tests." She was a Rhodes Scholar, and has trained at Washington University, the University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham & Women's and Massachusetts General Hospitals.

You can find out more about Dr. Wen and check out her book at WhenDoctorsDontListen.com. Follow @DrLeanaWen and visit www.drleanawen.com.

 

Relaxing and Ibuprofen photos from Shutterstock.

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