Headaches can be tricky things. The throbbing, nagging pain of a headache can make it impossible to focus, and pinpointing the exact cause, or even type, of your headache can often be difficult. Some turn to drugs as an ‘easy fix’, but drugs often take a long time to kick in, can carry the risk of side effects, and can lead to the body developing resistances or, even worse, dependencies.
To help keep Toronto healthy and pain-free, we present 6 drug-free alternatives for headache pain relief.
Please note that this guide is for standard headache pain relief; for migraines, please refer to our migraine article.
1. Spicy Food
Spices (or, more specifically, capsaicin, which is the substance that makes spices hot) have long been used as a natural remedy for pain and inflammation, and can help with most types of headaches.
As an added bonus, eating spicy foods helps to clear out sinus congestion, very quickly relieving and/or curing sinus headaches.
2. Stretch and Relax your Muscles
Tension in the back, neck, and shoulder muscles is a common side effect of stress, and lead to what is commonly known as ‘tension headaches’.
Relaxing stretches and breathing exercises can help you release that muscle tension, eliminating your tension headaches at the source.
If you find yourself frequently experiencing tension headaches, it may help to be mindful of your shoulders—when we’re approaching headache-levels of stress, often our shoulders will show early warning signs by pulling higher as the muscles associated with tension headaches start to flex. When this happens, a few relaxing stretches can avoid a bad headache before it happens.
3. Fresh Air & Exercise
While it might seem strange to see this next to ‘relax’, exercise can actually do a great deal to help us relieve stress-related tension.
Exercise naturally resolves stress by ‘blowing off steam’, directing the built-up energy into a physical activity so that it can no longer gather around the neck and result in a headache. Exercise also has the benefit of literally getting the blood flowing, improving the circulation, which gets more blood to your brain.
4. Hot and/or Cold Compresses
If you can tell which type of headache you’re experiencing, a compress on the back of your neck and/or forehead can be helpful.
Hot compresses are helpful for tension headaches as it opens blood vessels and helps to relieve muscle tension, but will make pressure headaches worse.
Cold compresses are helpful for pressure headaches, as it constricts the blood vessels that are causing pressure, but it can cause your muscles to tense up more, making tension headaches worse.
If you’re not sure, you can either go back and forth (as each compress tends to help more than the other hurts), or you can play it safe and try another method.
5. Drink Up!
Headaches are also a common sign that our bodies don’t have enough liquid. After all, our brain uses a tremendous amount of oxygen, which is supplied through the blood; if you become dehydrated, your brain doesn’t get as much blood as it needs, and it throbs to tell you that something is wrong.
We mostly don’t drink the recommended ‘adequate intake’ of 2-3 liters per day, and much of what we do drink contains elements that can dehydrate us, such as caffeine, sugars, and alcohol.
Yes, this one works for hangovers as well.
Have you ever felt hung over? That’s a dehydration headache. If you tend to experience hangovers, forget ‘hair of the dog’—drinking again just deprives your brain of even more blood while trying to dull your senses until you don’t notice the increasing pain quite as much.
Try ‘hair of the fish’ instead; replacing the water will actually resume function to your brain instead of just impairing it again.
Of course, the most effective way to avoid a hangover is to always drink in moderation (or abstain altogether), and drink plenty of water as well.
6. Regular Preventative Chiropractic Adjustments
Both tension and inflammation headaches have core causes related to the central nervous system: Tension headaches are caused by involuntary muscle tension that is caused by your nerves, whereas inflammation headaches are caused by your cardio-vascular system, which is also controlled through your nervous system.
Regular chiropractic adjustments serve to help keep your nervous system in tip-top shape, preventing ‘misfires’ of nerves that very commonly leads to muscle tension and vascular issues.
And, if you’re experiencing a dehydration headache, you’re more than welcome to ask for a cup of water in the waiting room.
If you experience regular headaches, or would simply like to learn more about the benefits of regular chiropractic treatment, book an appointment with your Toronto chiropractor today. Get headache pain relief in Toronto today!