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10 Ways to Kick Headaches

More than 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation. Fortunately, there are a few basic steps you can take to help prevent headaches and alleviate the pain once they’ve begun.

“Many headaches are brought on by normal activities,” says Sue Royappa, M.D., internist on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “Not enough sleep, poor posture, eyestrain and stress can all cause headaches.”

Follow these tips to help ease the pain:

1. Relax by taking a break from work and resting for a bit to ease the stress on your body.

2. Get a massage to relieve tension in your neck and shoulders that often causes headaches.

3. Eat regularly to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Eat a small, healthy snack if your head begins to hurt because of hunger.

4. Drink plenty of water to help cool down your body temperature.

5. Lie down with an ice pack on areas where you feel pain and tension, including the neck, temples or forehead.

6. Relax with heat by applying a towel soaked in warm water to painful areas.

7. Get up and walk around because staying in one position for a long time can cause headaches through muscle tension.

8. Add some zinc to your diet. Women should increase their intake of zinc by eating lean proteins, such as turkey or chicken, or peanuts and legumes
to relieve headaches related to menstrual cycles.

9. Monitor your diet by keeping a food diary to see if certain foods seem to trigger your headaches. If you notice a pattern of headaches after eating a specific food or ingredient, cut that food out of your diet to see if your headaches cease.

10. Talk to your physician about over-the-counter (OTC) medications that may help your situation if you feel no relief from making lifestyle changes. Stick to the recommended dosages on medication bottles — Advil and Motrin are both ibuprofen, and makers recommend no more than 1,200 mg (six doses of 200 mg tablets) in 24 hours. The makers of Tylenol recommend no more than 3,900 mg daily (12 doses of 325 mg tablets). With Aleve, a longer-acting medication, makers recommend no more than 660 mg per day, or three doses of 220 mg tablets.

If you find yourself routinely taking high doses of OTC medications with little or no relief, work with your doctor for a better treatment plan.

“Headaches can disrupt your daily life,” says Dr. Royappa. “But they don’t have to, because there are remedies out there to help more efficiently manage, and even eliminate, your pain.” (Summer 2008)

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