When a headache sets in, it can be debilitating. Simple tasks are made impossible due to the throbbing pain within your head. Although it’s an easy solution to simply take a pill every time you get a headache, this is not a long-term solution. Thankfully, you can leave the pills behind as relief may be here with these simple tips and remedies on how to get rid of a headache fast. Please keep in mind, some of these tips may not work for everyone depending on the cause and severity of your headaches, but they may provide relief until your specific condition is managed appropriately.
1. How to get rid of a headache fast with an ice cold compress
Ice cold compresses can work because the low temperature can help to constrict the blood vessels in the brain. This, in turn, can help reduce the pain, as the cold feeling distracts the brain from the painful sensations.
A previous study has shown that it is best to apply the cold compress to the neck when a headache sets in, as research has proven this can reduce pain in sufferers of headaches.
Cooling the blood flow within the neck area has been proven to have a knock-on effect in reducing brain inflammation which can often result in reducing migraine and headache pain.
When applying the cold press, it’s best to leave it for 15-20 minutes so it has a chance to work. Be mindful of not applying cold press directly on your skin to avoid the risk of ice burn.
2. Apply a heat pack
A heat pack can also work to effectively get rid of a headache fast for some, depending on the type of headache you might be experiencing.
If you are suffering from tight muscles (often around the neck area) then this tension can travel up your back and shoulders and to your head, causing a migraine.
Applying a heat pack, or even having a hot shower, can work wonders in reducing this type of tension. When being placed on the shoulders, neck, or the back of the head, the heat pack works by reducing the muscle tightening.
Ensure the heat pack isn’t too hot before placing it on the skin, as it has the potential to burn – and this won’t assist in relieving your headache!
3. Get some pressure point therapy
Chinese medicine has been used for thousands of years and has been known to reduce the pain of a headache for some patients, when applied properly. Pressure point therapy uses pressure points such as LI-4, known as Hegu, which can be found at the base of your thumb and forefinger.
A Chinese medicine therapist may also work on the area between the eyebrows, as well as either side of the spine, under the skull or on the top of the shoulders.
All these pressure points have been thought to reduce the painful feeling of a headache, although few scientific studies have assessed the effectiveness of acupressure on headaches and there is little research to back up this theory.
Of the studies into the effectiveness of acupressure on headaches, all have small sample sizes or inadequate control measures in place.
However, if you are still interested in experiencing pressure point treatment, there are simple remedies you can carry out at home to relieve the tension or pressure.
Take a seat or stand in a comfortable or relaxed manner and slowly massage the space between your left hand between the bottom of your left thumb and index finger. Press the acupressure point firmly for five minutes, moving your thumb in a circular motion as you do so.
Once you have done it on one side, repeat on the opposite side.
It helps to breathe deeply while massaging your pressure points, as this can help to relax your body. If you are feeling any pain or the pain in your head is increasing, it’s important to stop the acupressure as it might worsen the situation.
4. Apply a pressured headband (cephalgy)
How to get rid of a headache fast with cephalgy. A study conducted a decade ago, in which a headband is used to apply heat, cold or pressure, was shown to reduce headache pain amongst regular sufferers.
This process works by applying either a heat or cold pack to the head, using a tension strap to secure it in place.
5. How to get rid of a headache fast using neuromodulation
Neuromodulation is technology developed for chronic pain that was first invented back in the 1960s. It works by acting on the nervous system to alter nerve activity by giving the area through procedures using technology such as electrical devices.
The concept behind it is that you can turn down your brain’s activity to reduce the pain of headaches and other ailments.
Neuromodulation devices can be electrical, temperature-altering or magnetic, and some studies have been carried out to prove neuromodulation successfully reduces the frequency or intensity of headaches.
6. Get some deep sleep
There is a strong correlation between sleep and headaches, and this link has been apparent for centuries. It is clear from scientific studies into sleep patterns that some headache types are profoundly influenced by sleep.
Many irregular sleeping patterns can bring on headaches, such as lack of sleep, too much sleep, shift work and jet lag.
In order to go into a deep sleep, you need to ensure your brain is functioning on a 24-hour clock with the body experiencing a light and dark cycle. This cycle is linked to a hormone known as melatonin, or circadian rhythm. You need this rhythm in order to establish successful sleeping patterns.
Secondly, you need to complement this sleep cycle with a secondary sleep pattern that increases during wakefulness and reduces in sleep.
When these two cycles are linked, it creates a condition with the correct chemical and physiological environment within the brain (hypothalamus and brainstem) that gives us a good balance between wakefulness and sleep. This means we are wide awake when our eyes are open, and are able to enter into a deep sleep cycle when we are asleep.
So how can we establish a healthy sleep routine?
The best advice is to ensure you go to bed and get up the same time each day, while understanding your sleeping needs both in terms of timing and duration. Some people can fully function on just five hours sleep a night, whereas others need nine hours or more.
It’s also important to try and spend some time outdoors in natural light during the day to help your body clock understand what time of day it is.
When you do turn off the light, make sure your sleeping environment is as restful as possible in terms of it being quiet, comfortable, and free of excess light.
By reducing high cardio exercise before bed and instead shifting it to before you eat your dinner, you can also improve your ability to fall asleep.
Smoking can also stimulate the body and brain and suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, so by giving up your nicotine fix, you can encourage your body to relax into a deeper sleep.
Screen time can also overstimulate us and make it harder for us to fall asleep, so it’s best to avoid TVs, tablets and mobile devices just before going to bed. And of course, caffeine and alcohol can make it difficult to both get to sleep and stay asleep, so it’s best these beverages are avoided too.
7. Get enough exercise
Exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing when you have a headache, but studies have shown regular exercise can actually reduce the intensity and frequency of headaches.
Why is this? Because exercising helps to release endorphins through the body, which in turn create a natural painkiller.
Not only does frequent exercise work at keeping chronic pain down, but it also reduces stress and helps the body to sleep at night – which as we mentioned can also reduce the frequency of headaches and migraines.
Studies show that it’s best to exercise at least 40 minutes three times a week – and to stay hydrated during exercise so you don’t bring on any extra headaches caused from dehydration. When the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink, causing the brain to pull away from the skull resulting in headache.
Make sure you have enough energy to work out by charging yourself with sufficient food and by warming up before you begin exercising.
Ideally your exercise should include elements of cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, and endurance and flexibility.
Cardiorespiratory exercises include brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, rowing or skipping rope, while you can do strengthening exercises with free weights or machines.
Some of the best exercises for flexibility include stretching, yoga or pilates.
8. Practice meditation
How to get rid of headaches fast with meditation. In fact, meditation has been known to improve your health and in some cases can ward off headaches due to the way it works in the brain. For example, your headache might be caused by a part of the nervous system responsible for stress going into overdrive.
By using meditation, you can have a positive effect on the hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain. This, in turn, can increase your dopamine and melatonin which can assist in overall brain function.
Meditating has also been known to regulate serotonin, which is known to cause headaches through neuropeptides and blood vessel constriction, which decrease cortisol and norepinephrine – the brain’s fight or flight stress chemical.
If you’ve never practised mediation before, one of the best ways to get started is by downloading an app such as Calm and using it to practice mindfulness. Meditation is a main component of mindfulness and a great way to start.
9. Go to a yoga class
Yoga has also been known to have many health benefits such as slowing down your heart rate and reducing blood pressure. Studies have shown that these benefits can also lead to a reduction in headache frequency and intensity.
10. Reduce your stress levels
How to get rid of a headache fast by reducing your stress levels! If yoga isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways you can work towards reducing your stress levels. As stress is a well-documented cause of headaches, it’s worth investing some time in stress reduction techniques – even something as simple as lighting candles can help!
Stress is known to affect both blood vessel dilation and constriction, which can bring on headaches, as well as increase muscle tension and change the body’s biochemical and hormonal balances.
11. Avoid preservatives in food
Certain chemicals, preservatives and additives in food can also cause headaches, such as MSG which is used to enhance flavours. Sulphites, which are often present in various fruits, have also been known to trigger headaches.
12. Be careful with what you eat
There are many and various foods that studies have shown to trigger headaches, and these include:
- Artificial sweeteners (particular aspartame)
- Caffeine – too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches BUT caffeine can relieve some headaches with occasional use
- Chocolate – contains caffeine and beta-phenylethelamine known to trigger headaches
- Alcohol – particularly red wine and beer are common triggers
- Cured meats – possibly through nitic oxides effect on blood vessel dilation
- Aged cheeses – such as feta, blue cheese and parmesan contain a chemical called Tyramine linked to headaches
- Pickled and fermented foods also contain tyramine
- Eating frozen foods fast such as ice cream or slushies, particularly after exercise or when overheated
- Salty foods – high levels of sodium increase blood pressure that can lead to headaches
13. Be wary of different light sources
Be conscious of the different light sources you are letting into your home, especially around the times you are trying to train your brain to go to sleep. White and blue lights can enhance headaches through specific neural pathway from eyes to brain.
14. Avoid blue light
Blue light comes from screens and is show to suppress melatonin, thus effect your 24-hour body clock sleep cycle.
15. Avoid white light
How to get rid of a headache fast by avoiding white light, such as that coming from a fluorescent light source, has been linked to headaches.
16. Dim the lights
When the time has come to unwind for bed, start to dim the lights around your home so you can reduce overstimulation.
How to get rid of a headache fast, where to from here?
Each headache symptom should be treated as an individual case, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all approach to curing your headaches.
However, we hope that some of the above tips and remedies have shown you some good ideas on how to get rid of a headache fast or at the very least, get some relief.
Headache and migraines are debilitating conditions that vary in severity and some of the above mentioned techniques may or may not work for each individual. These are merely recommendations from mostly anecdotal evidence provided by thousands of headache sufferers around the world.
Prevention is the best medicine and understanding the underlying cause as to why your headache exists is fundamental in managing this condition in the long-term. If you haven’t already had an accurate assessment of the cervical spine by a trained Watson headache practitioner, then we urge you to click on the link and fill out our free online assessment form to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for this treatment.
In the meantime, try some of these options and see what works best for you to help assist with decreasing the severity of the symptoms in the short term.