5 Ways to Reduce the Symptoms of Headaches
Helpful Ways to Reduce Headaches
Everyone suffers from a headache from time to time. The main problem with something as common and as annoying as a headache is that they can be caused by so many different problems. Dehydration, lack of sleep, and stress, are only a few of the reasons they can occur.
Knowing how to reduce the effects of a headache is a great toolkit to have. It will also reduce your need for medication and will stop you from having to miss out on things due to your pain.
If you have concerns about how much you are suffering, please refer to our information about migraines and headaches.
Steps to Reduce Headaches
Hydration and Headaches
Chronic mild dehydration can trigger headaches and increasing water intake can be a key element in reducing headaches.
The human body requires water to perform all vital functions, so not consuming enough and becoming dehydrated can be dangerous but it is easily avoidable. Studies have shown that for those with water deprivation-induced headaches, ingestion of water provides relief from headache in most individuals within 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Carrying a reusable water bottle is an easy way of accessing water whilst on a busy schedule, and it will remind you to keep drinking throughout your day.
Cold Therapy for Headaches
Cold therapy is one of the first documented forms of self-administered pain relief for headaches dating back to 1849.
Applying a cold pack to the front of the neck (targeting specifically the carotid arteries) has been shown to significantly reduce recorded pain levels in headache patients (Sprouse-Blum et.al. 2013).
Mindfulness for Headaches
Mindfulness practice has been associated with improvements in people's chronic pain, including migraines as it teaches you a new way of dealing with pain which has a significant effect on long term health.
Research from Harvard demonstrated that a mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment had significant improvements in quality of life, pain catastrophizing and a decreased frequency of migraine headaches compared to the control.
Sleep to Help Headaches
Ensuring you have good quality sleep and a regular sleep schedule is important to reduce the risk of headaches.
Try to get between 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night at a consistent time. Avoid caffeine, nicotine or alcohol before bed as well as the use of electronic devices.
Keeping On Top of Your Headaches
Keep a Headache Record
Keeping a headache diary can be useful to check for certain trends associated with headaches.
Be aware if certain food or drinks can exacerbate a headache, if the headache presents at a particular time of the day or doing certain activities. Try and avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine as they are common triggers for migraines.
- Blau, J., Kell, C. and Sperling, J., 2004. Water-Deprivation Headache: A New Headache With Two Variants. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 44(1), pp.79-83.
- Sprouse-Blum AS, Gabriel AK, Brown JP, Yee MH. Randomized controlled trial: targeted neck cooling in the treatment of the migraine patient. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2013;72(7):237-241.
Wells, R., O’Connell, N., Pierce, C., Estave, P., Penzien, D., Loder, E., Zeidan, F. and Houle, T., 2021. Effectiveness of Mindfulness Meditation vs Headache Education for Adults With Migraine. JAMA Internal Medicine, 181(3), p.317.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7737157