March 31, 2012 -- Tension Headache
This type of headache delivers a dull and typically steady pain, often across your forehead. It can be brought on by stress, which throws your brain's pain processors out of whack. Studies find that relaxation techniques can reduce headache frequency by 50 percent or more.
Migraines involve severe, throbbing pain, often on one side, and are sometimes accompanied by nausea. Common triggers include changes in sleeping patterns, skipped meals, and exposure to bright lights or loud sounds. (A hangover headache is actually a mild migraine.)
Stop the misery
If you use over-the-counter pain relievers too often, you can actually make your headaches worse by reducing your pain threshold, says Dr. Robert Kaniecki, chief of the headache division at the University of Pittsburgh school of medicine. Limit pill popping to twice a week; if you need more meds, see a doctor. But before you swallow anything, try one of these pain-reducing strategies.
Strategy #1: Apply Ice
A trusty ice pack is a good short-term fix for head pain because it eases inflammation, Dr. Kaniecki says. Apply the ice to your aching area for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. "The nerves and muscles on the outside of your head can be inflamed and irritated by the headache, or they could be causing the headache," says Dr. Kaniecki.
Strategy #2: Strike a (Yoga) Pose
A 2007 study from India showed that yoga can reduce chronic tension-headache pain by 71 percent as well as decrease spasms in your temporalis muscle, a chewing muscle on the side of your head. Gentle poses are key, says Dr. Kaniecki. Try the tree pose, described at MensHealth.com/yoga.
Strategy #3: Press Here
Acupressure can reduce pain from chronic headaches, a Taiwanese study found. Peter Goadsby, M.D., director of the headache center at the University of California at San Francisco, says some people find relief by using their right index finger and thumb to gently squeeze the muscle between their left index finger and thumb.
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Prevent future attacks
Set up your defense on multiple fronts to ward off the next head splitter. Try these strategies individually or in any combination. (Though we don't recommend a rubdown until after the needles come out.)
Strategy #1: Hit the Gym Regularly
Regular exercise can help stave off migraines as well as drugs can, according to a new Swedish study. People who exercised for 40 minutes three times a week had the same reduction in migraines as people who took the prescription migraine drug topiramate.
Strategy #2: Give Acupuncture a Chance
Acupuncture may reduce the frequency of tension headaches and can also be an effective treatment, according to a recent review from the Cochrane Collaboration. And a separate Cochrane review concluded the same for migraine sufferers. Everyone onto the table!
Strategy #3: Book a Rubdown
Myofascial release, a special tissue-stretching technique, can help prevent tension headaches when applied to a person's back, neck, and face, a study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found. Participants' headache frequency fell by more than half.
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