I already covered the most important red flags when it comes to headaches on my last post. Before I go further into ways to alleviate different types of headaches, I definitely need to ask you a question: Are you serious about getting rid of your headaches? Of course you are going to say yes. My advice to you: Let your actions speak louder than your words.
Fighting headaches is all about commitment to embracing change. It’s about being determined to slay the monster once and for all. Regardless of the kind of headache, all headaches can be alleviated by changing some of our behaviors. They also involve sacrifice. What behaviors are you ready to give up to become headache free? Which ones are you ready to embrace? Something as simple as keeping a journal on your daily activities might be crucial to determining how to get rid of your headaches. If you think this is too much effort, stop reading because you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.
Diet usually plays an important part in recurring headaches. Writing down on a journal every medication, supplements (herbal, vitamin or mineral) for at least three months can point at food allergies and sensitivities that you might not be aware of. Be as specific as possible. You must jot down your meals, snacks and drinks times. You might notice relationships among things that seemed unrelated: combinations of supplements and medications, food from certain restaurants, timing of your meals or exercise and the beginning of your the headaches. In 1996, after analyzing data from the journal, I found out I could not drink orange juice, pineapple juice and coffee gave me migraines. It broke my heart, but I quit on those drinks. The frequency of my headaches decreased tremendously from 5 – 12/month to about 5 – 6/year right after I made the change. In 2001, when living in Portland, my headaches came back with a vengence. Nothing on the journal seemed to trigger them. It turned out that something in my apartment caused my headaches (probably molds). Once I moved, the headaches went away. All that because I had a journal to analyze to rule factors out. If you think keeping a journal is too much of a hassle and won’t do it, you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.
Rest is also a very important part of your headache-busting routine. Not only should you get adequate amount of sleep (8 hours), but your sleep hygiene must be flawless. Do you have a firm, yet comfortable mattress? Do you keep your spine aligned during sleep? How efficiently do you use your pillows? Do you wake up refreshed after sleeping? Do you know you do not suffer from any sleep disorder? The number of hours you sleep (not the number of hours you stay in bed) should be the first entry on your journal. How are you willing to rearrange your schedule to get enough sleep? Still serious about winning over your headaches?
Rest also includes microbreaks when you hold the same position for longer than 30 minutes (sitting or standing, in front of a computer, reading or knitting). For every 30 minutes you stay in a static position at work, at school or at home, you should take at least a minute or two to stretch your body. Muscle and ligamentous fatigue leaves you open for aches. Some muscles refer pain to your head. If you are not nice to them, they won’t be nice to you. Again, if finding time during the day to stretch and move your muscles from a static position is too much for you, you are not serious about getting rid of your headaches.
Physical activity is essential to keeping our muscles, ligaments and bones in top shape. Even areas we don’t seem to work out directly (as the neck) benefit from your training. The important thing about training is that you get evaluated by a physician who knows about correct movement (chiropractors, physiatrists and physical therapists rank high on my list).
Physical activity decreases the amount of stress. Stress is a major trigger for headaches. It is very important, though, that exercise does not become a source of stress. A gradual approach to exercise that establishes realistic goals is best. Incorporating stress reduction modalities like Yoga will make your routine more effective. If you would rather watch TV, talk on the phone or chat instead of adding an hour of physical activity to your daily routine, you are NOT ready to forgo your headaches.
Also as far as stress goes, restructuring your support group is essential. Notice who are the people around you that stress you out the most. Stay away from them! Sometimes this is pretty much impossible to do. Your best friend or your mom can be the source of your stress. You can, however, let them know what causes you stress about their behavior and be firm about not tolerating it. Sometimes, your support group is responsible for some of the behaviors that trigger your headaches. Is keeping your support group intact more important than being healthy and headache free? If it is, you are not ready to let go of your headaches.
I’ve written almost 800 words so far just to let you know that some people are just not ready to get rid of their headaches. To put an end to your headaches, you must have a warrior’s focus and determination. If you are not ready to change your behaviors from rest to partying to diet to exercise, either your headaches are not frequent or debilitating enough (I’m happy for you, seriously) or you are subconsciously or consciously using them to your advantage. I know what I just wrote sounds harsh, but as a physician, I understand that being strict about health is the only way to slay the headache monster. Also, I’ve seen how people hold on to their conditions as if they were afraid of living without them. The right attitude will reward you with less frequent, less severe headaches or might even eliminate them. And being headache free for long periods of time or maybe forever is priceless!