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.
1. Try a Cold Pack
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.
2. Use a Heating Pad or Hot Compress
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.
3. Ease Pressure on Your Scalp or Head
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.
4. Dim the Lights
Bright or flickering light, even from your computer screen, can cause migraine headaches. If you’re prone to them, cover your windows with blackout curtains during the day. Wear sunglasses outdoors. You might also add anti-glare screens to your computer and use daylight-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures.
5. Try Not to Chew
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.
6. Get Some Caffeine
Have some tea, coffee, or something with a little caffeine in it. If you get it early enough, it could ease your headache pain. It can also help over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) work better. Just don’t drink too much, because caffeine withdrawal can cause its own type of headache.
7. Practice Relaxation
Whether it’s stretches, yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, learning how to chill out when you’re in the middle of a headache can help with the pain. You might even talk to your doctor about physical therapy if you have muscle spasms in your neck.
You can do it yourself. A few minutes massaging your neck and temples can help ease a tension headache, which may result from stress.
9. Take Some Ginger
A small recent study found that taking ginger, in addition to regular, over-the-counter pain meds, eased pain for people in the ER with migraines. Another found that it worked almost as well as prescription migraine meds. You can try a supplement or maybe brew some tea.
10. 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 the directions on the label and 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.
- If you get sick to your stomach when you get a headache, ask your doctor what might help.
- Ask your doctor what to take to avoid a rebound headache -- pain that sets in after a few days of taking pain relievers.
And be sure to talk to your doctor about what headache symptoms you should not try to treat at home.