Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Nine Headache Remedies

When Cutting Off Your Own Head Is Not An Option

A small cloth covered my eyes and I felt myself gliding backwards into the large metal cylinder. I heard a soft hum and then rhythmic clicking. I focused on the sound of my own breathing.

I was having a CT scan of my head. This was two weeks ago.

At the time, the thought circulating through my head—yes, the one that was being radiologically sliced and imaged and analyzed—was this: being a patient really kinda sucks.

See, I’m comfortable with my usual role in the doctor-patient equation. Of course I recognize the value in occasionally experiencing the other side, from a professional point of view. Personally, though, I could do without it, thank you very much.

I was having a CT because I’d experienced a week of excruciating headaches that weren’t responding to anything that usually works for me. And I was at the point where I wanted to cut my own head off to make the pain stop. So when I went to see my doctor and she got that look on her face, it was not a happy moment. Maybe the trouble was I knew exactly what she was thinking. Anyway, she sent me to emerg, right then and there, and before long I was lying down on that cold, gliding platform of the CT scanner.

I knew they wanted to rule out some truly terrifying items, like aneurysms and brain tumours. And they did, thank God. But for a little while I had to wait and wonder if, once the radiologist had finished looking at the films, everything would change for me. And that’s a scary place to be.

With much stronger medication than I possessed in my cupboard at home, the headaches eventually subsided. But maybe just as important as that: I took a few days off work, I slept a lot, I did a little yoga every day, I ate better, and I dealt with some of the stress that had been creeping up.

But enough about me.

If you suffer headaches (and you’d rather not end up in the ER because you haven’t dealt with them), what can you do?

Here are some of the best natural headache remedies and preventive measures. No prescription needed.

1. Water

Insufficient fluid intake is an extremely common cause for headaches and fatigue. How much to drink? Read this.

2. Massages

Regular massage therapy helps with muscle tension, with stress...and so much more (here’s why the spa is good for you).

3. A Headache Diary

Keep track of everything you eat for potential food triggers. A detailed journal is the only way to sort out your own individual factors, but classic migraine triggers include red wine, chocolate, and cheese (All the good stuff, I know. I’m sorry.)

4. Caffeine

This can be both a plus and a minus. Caffeine does, indeed, treat headaches (it's an ingredient in many headache pain relievers, like Excedrin), but caffeine withdrawal will also give you a headache. My advice: keep your intake moderate, and try not to vary the amount of coffee you drink, day to day.

5. Meditation

An excellent stress reliever, meditation has also been shown to reduce pain, among a multitude of other benefits. If you’re interested in exploring meditation, your first step is to head over to Annabel’s blog.

6. Sleep

Sleep deprivation is another classic, but under-recognized, cause for headaches. Make sure you're getting the amount your system needs (typically, for most adults, 7-8 hours). Trouble sleeping? Read this.

7. Magnesium

A few small studies have shown that frequent headache sufferers are more likely to be magnesium deficient, and that magnesium can help treat that pain. I've written about magnesium before, primarily as it relates to sleep and stress, but it's worth considering for headache prevention.   

8. Stress Management

Speaking of stress, this is a biggie when it comes to headache factors. I personally think it's the biggest cause. But, though identifying stress is easy, dealing with it? Not so much. Start here.

9. Omega-3

This makes intuitive sense to me, as omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory. More than intuition, though, some early studies have demonstrated benefit for headache sufferers, in terms of prevention.

So how about you? What are your go-to headache remedies?