5 Ways to Get Rid of a Headache

Headaches happen. The good news is there are several simple things you can do to ease the pain without a trip to the doctor or drugstore. Try these tips and get to feeling better fast.

Go Hot and Cold

If you have a migraine, place a cold pack on your forehead. Ice cubes wrapped in a towel, a bag of frozen peas, or even a cold shower may lessen the pain. Keep the compress on your head for 15 minutes, then take a break for 15 minutes.

If you have a tension headache, place a heating pad on your neck or the back of your head. If you have a sinus headache, hold a warm cloth to the area that hurts. A warm shower might also do the trick.

Let Your Hair Down -- Literally

If your ponytail is too tight, it could cause a headache. These "external compression headaches" can also be brought on by wearing a hat, headband, or even swimming goggles that are too tight. In one study, women who loosened their hair saw their headache disappear.

Embrace Your Dark Side

Bright or flickering light, even from your computer screen, can cause migraines. If you’re prone to them, cover your windows with special blackout curtains during the day. Wear sunglasses both indoors and out. You might also add anti-glare screens to your computer and use daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures.

Spit Out Your Gum

Chewing gum can hurt not just your jaw, but your head as well. The same is true for chewing your fingernails, lips, the inside or your cheeks, or handy objects like pens. Avoid crunchy and sticky foods, and make sure you take small bites. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouth guard. This may curb your early-morning headaches.

Take Meds in Moderation

Pharmacy shelves are stocked with pain relievers for all kinds of headaches. They may work, but to get the most benefit with the least risk, follow these guidelines:

  • Choose liquid over pills. Your body absorbs it faster.
  • Take painkillers as soon as you feel pain. You’ll likely beat it with a smaller dose.
  • Avoid drugs that contain caffeine or multiple ingredients. These are more likely to cause "rebound" headaches. This is what happens when you take medicines too often or for too long. They actually make your condition worse, not better.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on December 22, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "Have a Headache at Work? 13 Quick Fixes."

National Headache Foundation: "Hot and Cold Packs/Showers."

National Health Service (UK): "Sinus headache."

Blau, JN. Headache, published online May 2004.

The International Headache Classification ICHD-2: "External Compression Headache."

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Managing Your Migraines"

National Health Service (UK): "10 Headache Triggers."

National Headache Foundation: "Bruxism."

American Headache Society: "Dental Appliances and Headache."

The Migraine Trust: "Medication for Migraine."

American Headache Society: "Acute Therapy: Why Not Over-The-Counter or Other Nonspecific Options?"

American Headache Society: "Ten Things That You and Your Patients with Migraine Should Know."

Lawrence C. Newman, MD, President, American Headache Society and Director, Headache Institute, Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, New York City.

American Academy of Neurology: "Migraine Headache."

American Migraine Foundation: "Headache Hygiene - What is it?"

American College of Physicians: "Managing Migraine."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Chronic Daily Headache."

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