Reducing Your Risk of Headache

The different types of headache call for different prevention measures. You can reduce the frequency of most types of headaches by making lifestyle changes. Specific recommendations are suggested to limit the number or intensity of each type of headache.

Tension Headache

Exercise Regularly

Exercise helps control stress and can decrease the number and intensity of headaches. However, exercise can trigger a migraine.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here .

Improve Your Posture

Poor 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 Techniques

Stress 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 resolution.

For more information on reducing stress, click here .

Get Plenty of Sleep

Maintaining 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 Tasks

Regular breaks help prevent your muscles from tightening up and can decrease stress.

Migraine Headache

Keep a Diary to Help Identify Your Migraine Pattern

Identifying what triggers migraines and what relieves them will help your doctor and you develop a plan to manage your migraines.

Learn Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques

Stress 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 Regularly

Exercise helps control stress. Regular swimming and walking can decrease the number and intensity of migraine headaches.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here .

Avoid Foods That Trigger Migraines

Some foods bring on migraines. These may include:

  • Yogurt
  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Beans: lima, navy, pinto, and others
  • Aged or cured meats
  • Processed or canned meat
  • Caffeine
  • Canned soup
  • Chocolate
  • Buttermilk or sour cream
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Red plums
  • Sauerkraut
  • Snow peas
  • Soy sauce
  • Any foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate), tyramine, or nitrates
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Aspartame

Avoid Offending Medications

Birth control pills and vasodilator drugs can precipitate a migraine attack. Avoid these drugs if you know that they can trigger migraine.

Eat Small Meals More Often

If low blood sugar precedes your migraines, eating small amounts of food more frequently may help prevent your blood sugar from dropping.

Do Not Change Your Regular Sleep Pattern on the Weekend or During Vacation

Sleeping and waking at regular times may help prevent headaches.

Cluster Headache

Do Not Drink Alcoholic Beverages

Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger a headache during a cluster period.

Learn Stress Management Techniques

Stress 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 Smoke

Tobacco may interfere with medication to relieve the headache.

For more information on quitting smoking, click here .

Do Moderate Physical Exercise on a Regular Basis

Very strenuous exercise may trigger cluster headaches. Vigorous physical activity at the first symptoms may stop the headache in some people.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here .

Sinus Headache

Avoid Exposure to Anything that Triggers Allergy or Sinus Symptoms

Allergic reactions increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages, which can lead to sinusitis.

Seek Medical Treatment for Allergies or a Persistent Cold

Medical management of allergies and upper respiratory infections helps prevent sinusitis. If you are prone to sinus problems, ask your doctor about using a decongestant before air travel. A decongestant will help keep nasal passages open.

Wash Your Hands Frequently to Avoid Colds

Hand washing helps prevent colds and other infections passed from the hand to the nose, mouth, or eyes. Colds increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages, which can lead to sinusitis.

For more information on washing your hands properly, click here .

Avoid Alcoholic Drinks

Alcohol can cause swelling of nasal and sinus tissues.

References

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools_for_Sufferers/Headache_-_Frequently_Asked_Questions. Accessed September 11, 2008.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/. Updated July 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.



Last reviewed July 2008 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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