Headaches happen. They come and go. Some people never experience one, while others suffer from chronic headaches. If you’re among the latter group, you know how unpleasant it is — especially when it means you don’t feel like doing anything. But there are some simple ways to relieve those aches and pains quickly.
What Is a Headache?
Headaches can be caused by many things, including sinus infections, allergies, stress or even migraines. The most common type of headache is tension-type headache. This kind of headache usually occurs on both sides of your head at once. You may also have a throbbing headache that feels as if someone has hit you with a hammer. These types of headaches (migraines) often occur along with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and sensitivity to light.
How Common Are Headaches?
Headaches/head pain can be very common. In fact, about 75 percent of adults worldwide will experience a headache sometime during their lives. About half of all adults get them every month. And more than 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic daily headaches.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about one out of every five Americans suffers from migraine pain at least once during their lifetime. In fact, more than 50 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches! That’s a lot of people who need relief.
These tips can help you steer clear of headache pain:
1. Avoid caffeine.
Caffeine causes headache pain because it stimulates your nervous system. So if you’ve been drinking coffee throughout the day, try switching to decaf. You might even want to switch up your diet too. Foods high in tyramine, such as cheese, wine, chocolate and red meat, cause headaches. Instead, opt for foods low in tyramine, including fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and whole grains.
2. Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated helps keep your body healthy and keeps your brain functioning properly. Water also reduces swelling around the head, which can help reduce headache intensity. Keep a bottle of water handy during the day and sip frequently.
3. Get enough sleep.
If you’ve ever had a restless night, you might have felt headache pain throughout the following day. Research has shown a link between low-quality sleep and headaches, particularly migraine. Morning headache pain can be caused by several sleep-related issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, bruxism (teeth grinding) and tempormandibular joint disorder.
4. Exercise regularly.
Exercise releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels, which make you happy. It also lowers blood pressure, which can help prevent headaches caused by increased blood flow.
5. Use heat or cold therapy.
Heat packs, warm compresses and ice packs work wonders on sore muscles. Apply them to your neck and shoulders for 15 minutes at a time or use an electric heating pad for 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime to ease head pain. Cold therapy works similarly: Put a bag of frozen peas on your forehead for 20 minutes when you’re experiencing headache pain.
6. Try essential oils.
Essential oils have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, so they can be used topically to treat headaches. Inhaling them is another option. To do this, take a few drops of oil in your mouth and breathe deeply. The scent will spread through your nasal passages and into your bloodstream.
7. Take pain medication.
If all else fails, consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Be sure to follow the directions on the label. And always check with your doctor before using any medications.
Headaches and Jaw Issues
One cause of headaches is problems with your jaw. When your jaw or bite are “off,” it causes tension in the muscles that surround your jaw joints. This tension can lead to tension headaches.
Jaw problems also often mean clenching your teeth. Clenching your teeth tightens the muscles in your face, which can again cause headaches (and jaw pain!).
Other signs of jaw issues include:
- Pain in your jaw joint area
- Difficulty chewing food
- Swelling around your eyes
- Neck stiffness
- A feeling of fullness in your ears
- Tingling in your hands or feet
- Numbness in your arms or legs
- Muscle spasms
- Tooth grinding
- Bad breath
- Sore throat
- Stiff neck
If jaw problems persist, they can lead to a painful condition known as TMD, or temporomandibular joint disorder, which could impact your ability to chew, speak, smile, laugh, yawn, swallow and more.
If you find that you’re experiencing muscle tension in the area of your jaw as well as severe headaches, give us a call to set up a consultation and exam.