9 ways to treat a headache without taking medication

A headache can occur at any time, and is often more common in hot weather.

“Headaches can be triggered by a multitude of factors,” says Dr. Steve Allder, consultant neurologist at Re:Cognition Health (recognitionhealth.com). “Ranging from genetics, diet, food intolerances, hunger and allergies, to hormones, lifestyle, weather conditions, environment, fatigue, disorders or deprivation of sleep, strenuous exercise, dehydration and broader medical issues.”

Remember that if recurrent or painful headaches bother you, it is always best to talk to your GP. But if you’re looking for ways to relieve a bothersome headache — without resorting to painkillers and pills — there may be other options.

Experts outline nine ways to treat a headache without taking painkillers…

Staying hydrated can help fend off a headache.

1. Drink water

“Dehydration is a well-known trigger for episodic headaches and makes chronic headaches worse,” says Dr Anita Krishnan, consultant neurologist at the Walton Center NHS Foundation Trust (thewaltoncentre.nhs.uk).

“People prone to headaches should aim to stay well hydrated and drink two to three liters of water throughout the day.”

A good way to check if you need to increase your water intake? Check the color of your pee: if it’s darker, you might be dehydrated.

2. Monitor your blood sugar

Low blood glucose, called hypoglycemia, can lead to headaches.

“Migraine and cluster headaches can also be triggered by low glucose levels,” says Dr. Deborah Lee, of online pharmacy Dr. Fox (doctorfox.fr).

“Any adult who suspects their headache might be due to low blood glucose could benefit from taking a 15g dose of glucose. This could be three or four glucose tablets, three boiled candies , four or five jelly babies or half a cup of soft drink (not without sugar).

However, for people with diabetes — or other health conditions that can affect blood sugar — it’s important to only follow health advice specific to your needs.

A good night’s sleep is important.

3. Get some sleep

You may find that taking a short nap or going to bed earlier than usual helps relieve a headache.

“When a person has a severe headache, the most common type being migraine, sleep helps to recover from that attack,” says Krishnan.

Experts agree that one of the best ways to prevent headaches is to make sure you get enough sleep each night.

Allder says, “Studies have suggested that a lack of REM sleep, which occurs at 90-120 minute intervals throughout the night, is linked to more painful headaches, and increased sleep deprivation. the production of proteins that cause chronic pain and can lead to painful pain. migraines.

4. Avoid trigger foods

In the case of migraines, those affected often learn which foods can trigger or worsen their symptoms.

“Some of the most commonly reported food triggers are dairy products, including cheese, processed meats, sugar, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine,” says Dr. Leila Dehghan, of Plant Based Health Professionals (plantbasedhealthprofessionals.com).

Be careful not to go cold turkey when trying to wean yourself off caffeine.

5. Beware of caffeine withdrawal

“Caffeine withdrawal can trigger a painful, intense and throbbing headache,” says Dr Bryony Henderson, Chief GP at Livi (livi.co.uk). “This is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of nausea, anxiety and irritability.”

If this seems like a problem for you, it might be best not to cold turkey if you are a coffee lover but want to reduce your caffeine intake.

“Reduce slowly over a six-week period,” suggests Henderson. “You can try making your coffee more liquid, have smaller cups, or replace the drink with tea or decaffeinated.”

6. Protect your eyes

“Bright lights, especially flickering lights and glare, can cause migraines,” says Dr. Nabila Jones, an optometrist and researcher for the Optegra specialty eye hospital group (optegra.com). “To help manage this, sit in a dark room and shield your eyes.

“If you’re outdoors, sunglasses and polarized lenses can help reduce light intensity and glare, which will help reduce pain levels.”

7. Avoid strong odors

Have you ever noticed that certain smells that you usually enjoy, such as perfume or strongly flavored foods, become unbearable when you have a headache?

“This hypersensitivity to smells is called osmophobia and is common in people with chronic migraines,” says Suzie Sawyer, clinical nutritionist and health expert at Nature’s Way (natures-way.com). “If you think you’re sensitive to smells, avoiding perfumes, cigarette smoke, and heavily scented foods can help reduce your risk of migraines.”

Applying a cooling product can relieve some types of headaches.

8. Apply an ice pack

There are many ice and cooling products on the market that promise to cure headaches, but do they really work?

“They only provide temporary relief from headaches such as cluster headaches and migraine,” says Krishnan – but be careful, as applying anything too cold may not have the desired effect. .

“If anyone has trigeminal neuralgia [a type of facial pain]cold temperatures and therefore ice packs can trigger pain,” notes Krishnan.

You can try running without pain, but make sure you don’t get dehydrated.

9. Exercise

Although strenuous exercise can sometimes cause a headache or make it worse, for some people, movement can be a helpful source of pain relief.

“When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, a natural pain reliever that can help ease the pain of a headache once it’s underway,” says Allder.

“Remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, as dehydration can exacerbate pain. And don’t overdo it, especially in hot weather.

Always consult your doctor if you have persistent or worsening symptoms and need personalized health advice.

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