The World Health Organization states that headaches are very common. They go on to say that nearly everyone has a headache occasionally and 1 in 20 will have a headache every (or nearly every) day. What you need to know is that while they are very common, they are not normal.
Headaches are your body’s way of telling you it cannot overcome the daily stressors that you place upon it. Whether a headache shows up from eyestrain, hormones, food intolerances, or anything else, you should never ignore the warning signs OR cover them up by reaching for prescription or over-the-counter medications. All medications have side effects, and you wouldn’t want to trade one condition for another.
Instead, try a few home remedies or natural approaches to reduce, or even eliminate, headaches for good. Here’s a good list of 20 ways to stop headaches naturally.
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1. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractors look to the spine for the cause of disease, including “minor” aches and pains like headaches. While we do not treat the headache or pain, we do check your spine for something we call vertebral subluxations that may be hindering the body’s ability to communicate properly with the brain. With a gentle chiropractic adjustment, we can remove the interference in the communication pathways which will set the body back into motion towards health. Want to know more about chiropractic? Read my post What is Chiropractic?
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that utilizes a principle of “like cures like” to treat illness and disease. It doesn’t just treat the illness but takes into account the entire person and their overall health picture. It is safe, gentle, and very effective in not only treating headaches on an acute basis, but it can dig deep and really uproot chronic headaches for good. Here are a few homeopathic medicines that may help with headaches:
- Sepia – useful if headaches are related to female hormones
- Sanguinaria – a headache coming from the sinuses
- Gelsemium – headache brought on by colds or the flu
- Mag phos – can be employed for tension headaches
- Nux vomica – great for headaches after overindulgence
3. Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on form of bodywork that focuses on releasing tension and dysfunction in the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Our brain and spinal cord are the most important organs in our body, and any undue stress and strain placed upon them can lead to illness and disease. This method of therapy is typically used by some chiropractors, massage therapists, osteopaths, and occupational therapists and consists of light touch to release the restrictions around the central nervous system.
4. Nutrient-dense snacks
Nutrition is extremely important for our everyday body functions. Improper nutrition or skipping meals can cause our body to scream at us that it is lacking in vitamins and minerals. Headaches can be one of those ways our body is trying to tell us it needs to be fed. One easy way to stop headaches naturally is to grab a handful of carrots, an apple, or some trail mix to give your body a boost.
Headaches may be a sign that you are dehydrated. Our body is comprised of mostly water, and many people don’t do a good job of keeping it hydrated. And just like with foods, water provides our bodies with some basic minerals we need for our body to function normally. There’s no set amount of water that is beneficial for everyone, after all, we are all different. But if you suffer from chronic headaches, make it a point to track your water intake for a week and then increase it by an additional cup daily. You just might notice the headaches start to disappear.
Not only can exercise relieve stress, but it can calm the muscle tightness that is associated with certain types of headaches. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. Gentle exercises such as walking, stretching, deep breathing, or yoga can be very beneficial. Also, exercise releases endorphins which are our “feel good” hormones. These endorphins actually block pain in our body and naturally aid in healing.
We are a society heavily dependent on technology. And because of daily computer and handheld device use, we are becoming a society where most people have forward head posture. What this means is that when you view someone from the side, their head is not directly lined up with their shoulders. When this happens, the muscles of the head, neck, and upper back become overstretched and overworked. The normal body response to prevent further injury to these tissues is to tighten up or spasm those muscles. With this tightening can come headaches.
Similar to craniosacral therapy, massage therapy is a hands-on form of bodywork that focuses on releasing tension from the muscles and fascia of the body. It also stimulates lymphatic flow which helps to reduce toxin build-up in our body which can be another cause of headaches. Massage therapy uses a somewhat deeper pressure to relieve tension from the areas involved than does craniosacral therapy.
Everything in our body is comprised of energy. A headache can be a sign that there is an abnormal energy pattern occurring within the body. Acupuncture uses needles placed on points along energy channels, or pathways, in the body to help restore the body to balance. Acupressure has the same premise but doesn’t involve using needles. Aculief is a wearable acupressure device that is inexpensive and easy to grab and use when a headache is imminent.
There are quite a few herbs that can be used to combat headaches. Both chamomile and passionflower are great for relaxing muscles and promoting sleep. Butterbur can be used to reduce inflammation in the body. And feverfew can help get rid of pain, nausea, and sensitivities that accompany headaches. Herbs can be steeped in water and consumed as a tea, or they can be taken in supplement forms like capsules or tinctures.
Vitamins and supplements are things I list here to use if you truly have a severe deficiency. Otherwise, true supplementation can be addressed by using high quality, nutrient-dense foods. B-complex vitamins and magnesium seem to be the most beneficial vitamins and supplements for combating headaches. B-complex vitamins boost the production of neurotransmitters and can be lacking in those that suffer from chronic migraines. Magnesium controls the normal function of blood pressure, muscles, nerves, and heart all of which can cause headaches in abnormal states.
11. Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has long been used to treat headaches. Only in the last few years have essential oils become more mainstream thanks to many network marketing companies and the power of word of mouth. Aromatherapy uses oils extracted from all types of medicinal plants for topical and inhalation methods of healing. Lavender essential oil helps relieve tension and stress as well as promotes relaxation. Both peppermint and spearmint essential oils decrease pain and tension and stimulate blood flow. Eucalyptus essential oil can decrease both pain and swelling associated with headaches. While some oils can cause reactions on the skin of some people, you should start with adding a few drops of the oil to coconut oil before applying topically. Use a few drops of the essential oil of your choosing in a diffuser for inhalation.
Ice is anti-inflammatory and can decrease the firing of nerve signals. It can also break muscle spasms. While many people will reach for a heating pad when dealing with a headache, some find that an ice pack or cold compress has a better effect. Some headaches respond best when you alternate ice and heat.
Heating pads and warm compresses can stimulate blood flow, increase oxygen, and relax muscles when someone is suffering from a headache. Place the pad or compress on the back of the neck or on the shoulders to help get relief of muscle spasms when you have a tension-type headache. Placing a warm compress over the sinuses when you are suffering from a sinus headache will help thin the mucus and relieve the pressure. For even better results, alternate with a cold compress.
Sleep is healing and restorative. To prevent headaches from becoming chronic, be sure you are getting adequate sleep without the distractions of electronics. If you suffer from a headache during the day, you might find relief by going into a dark and silent room so you can concentrate on relaxing tense muscles and decreasing stress from your body.
15. Breathing techniques
Deep breathing improves circulation, stimulates nerve function, increases oxygen flow to the brain, and causes relaxation throughout the body. To perform deep breathing, you want to see your abdomen expand, not your chest. Concentrate on the pit of your stomach and breathe in through your nose for about 5 seconds, hold for another 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Just getting into this relaxed state may be enough to put a stop to an acute headache.
16. Get outdoors
Fresh air is sometimes all it takes to make a headache go away. Take a few minutes and go outside. Couple it with deep breathing and you’ll be feeling better in no time. If you want to learn how trees can be beneficial to your health, my friend Verla shares plenty of information over at her site Trees Mend Us.
17. Trigger elimination
Whether your headaches are triggered by foods, alcohol, caffeine, or anything else, you have a leg up on everyone else. Many people don’t actually know why they are having headaches. They just assume that it’s stress or hormone-related without actually knowing. Remove the triggers for the time being and then consult with a health care practitioner who can help you focus on healing your body. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to experience headaches when your usual triggers are encountered or added back into your life.
Baths can be a very relaxing way to stop a headache. Warm water increases blood flow and oxygen circulation throughout the body. Add in some Epsom salt to aid in detoxification or essential oils to help relieve built-up muscular tension.
While still controversial, many people have found great benefit in using CBD for headaches, especially migraines. CBD stands for cannabidiol and is a naturally occurring compound found in hemp plants. CBD from hemp plants acts just like our own natural body cannabinoids. It inhibits pain signals and decreases the inflammatory response.
20. Reduce stress
Stress can come in three forms: physical, chemical, or emotional. These stressors put our body into a fight-or-flight response. This response can increase blood pressure, tension, and inflammation and can decrease oxygen thus leading to headaches. Employ any of the methods mentioned in numbers 1-19 above to help reduce stress and stop headaches in their tracks.
Know that you are not alone in dealing with headaches. But also know that there are safe and side-effect free, natural remedies to stop and even eliminate headaches for good. Next time you experience a headache or migraine, opt for one of these natural methods first.