Lifestyle Changes to Manage Headache
Managing Tension HeadachesExercise RegularlyExercise can help control stress. For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here . Improve Your PosturePoor posture contributes to tension headaches. Do not slouch. Hold the phone, rather than cradling it on your shoulder, or use a headset. Consider seeing a physical or occupational therapist for posture tips more specific to your individual situation.Learn Stress Management TechniquesStress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques. The counselor may be able to help you identify events that trigger the headaches and work toward resolutions. For more information on reducing stress, click here . Get Plenty of SleepMaintaining regular sleep routines will help you fall asleep. Sleep helps decrease tension and irritability. For more information on getting a good night of sleep, click here . Take Breaks From TasksRegular breaks help prevent your muscles from tightening up and can decrease stress.Limit Stimuli During a Headache
- Put an ice pack or heat pack on your head or neck to ease discomfort.
- Lie in a dark, quiet room.
- Massage your temples and neck.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
Managing Migraine HeadachesKeep a Diary to Help Identify Your Migraine PatternIdentifying what triggers migraines and what relieves them will help your doctor and you develop a plan to manage your migraines.Do Not Overuse Pain MedicationOveruse of pain medications can make your headaches worse. Avoid excessive use of these medications.Learn Stress Management and Relaxation TechniquesStress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques. For more information on reducing stress, click here . Exercise RegularlyExercise helps control stress. Regular swimming and walking can decrease the number and intensity of migraine headaches. However, exercise can trigger a migraine attack in certain individuals. For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here . Avoid Foods That Trigger MigrainesSome foods bring on migraines. Avoid foods that trigger your migraine headaches. These may include:
- Any foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), tyramine, or nitrates
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Apply cold compresses to painful areas of your head.
- Lie in a dark, quiet room.
- Apply gentle pressure to your temples.
Managing Cluster HeadachesFind a doctor who is a headache specialist. Work with your doctor to create a plan to treat and prevent your headaches.Do Not Drink Alcoholic BeveragesEven a small amount of alcohol can trigger a headache during a cluster period.Learn Stress Management TechniquesStress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques. For more information on reducing stress, click here . Do Not SmokeTobacco use has been associated with cluster headaches. For more information on quitting smoking, click here . Do Not Overuse Pain MedicationOveruse of pain medications can make your headaches worse. Avoid excessive use of these medications.
Managing Sinus HeadachesKeep Nasal Passages MoistThis can be done by:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
- Breathing in warm, moist air
- Using a mist of saline nasal spray up to six times a day
- Nasal irrigation—ask your doctor how to do this at home
When to Contact Your DoctorContact your doctor if your headaches do not respond to lifestyle changes and prescribed medications.
Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools%5Ffor%5FSufferers/Headache%5F-%5FFrequently%5FAsked%5FQuestions. Accessed November18, 2013.
NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Scher A, Stewart WF, et al. Major life changes before and after the onset of chronic daily headache: a population-based study. Cephalgia. 2008;28(8):868-876.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014
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