I don’t know about you, but I used to reach into our closet for a few Tylenol pretty regularly, complaining of a headache. There are different degrees of headaches and then there are migraines, which are in their own category. Headaches happen for a lot of reasons including:
- Lack of sleep
- Tight neck muscles
- Poor posture
- Poor diet – too much sugar, too much caffeine, too many carbs
- Withdrawal from something your body is addicted to (coffee, sugar, medications)
- Changes in the weather/pressure systems
- Hormonal imbalances
- Related to other sickness (flu, cold, etc)
The “Easy” Fix
Unless our headache turns into a migraine and we can’t get out of bed, we usually just pop a few Tylenol and continue on our way.
But taking temporary pain relief medication doesn’t fix the problem. And the FDA is finally taking a harder look at the safety of regular Tylenol (acetaminophen) use in relation to your liver health.
Pain Happens for a Reason
Pain is your body’s way of getting your attention. If you have a headache (or a migraine), you have it for a reason. Effectively managing your health means getting to the bottom of the issue, not just covering it up with some medication.
I used to have headaches regularly. I would have to call off work or cancel social engagements if I was in too much pain. Sometimes taking Tylenol didn’t make the pain go away. So I thought I’d share a few things I have done personally to cure my headaches.
You’ve probably sick of hearing about water but it’s really important! I used to struggle to drink enough water (and I have slacked off lately) so I bought a Camelbak that I really love. I bring it everywhere. Drink water in the car, at work, during physical exercise, before you go to bed, when you wake up in the morning. Just do it. And don’t buy those awful flavor packets – they’re full of artificial sweeteners that will just give you a headache. If you really can’t stand the taste of plain water, throw some raspberries, strawberries, citrus slices, or some fresh mint in there.
And remember, by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you could already be dehydrated. So keep drinking all day long, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Once you create a habit, this one in particular is easy to stick with. I gave myself easy goals – drink one Camelback’s worth of water by lunch, dinner, and bedtime.
To discover how much water you should be drinking everyday do some simple math:
Divide your weight by 2. This number = how many ounces you should drink every day.
So if you weigh 140lbs / 2 = 70oz. You’ll need to drink 70 oz/day to stay hydrated.
If you were using my Camelbak which holds 750 ML, you’d need to drink roughly 3 Camelbak’s worth per day.
But you’ll need to drink more if you exercise, sweat on a hot day, or come down with the flu or a cold.
Go to the Chiropractor + Get Physical Therapy Massages
I have had regular chiropractic care for around 15 years now. However, I’ve never had x-rays of my spine done until last year. I finally found an excellent chiropractor in my area (I have been to several and they are the best I’ve found). They did a full set of x-rays and found two major issues in my spine. The first is a bone spur in my neck and the second is compression in my lower back. I have struggled with neck and back pain for most of my life, so that makes sense!
We determined that both issues are from old injuries from falling off horses (the risky part of riding) and are probably 10 years old.
I also discovered that a huge percentage of headaches are actually from tight neck muscles. Part of my physical therapy treatment was getting a massage regularly. But I call them “physical therapy massages” or “sports massages” because this is not the whole hot-stones-on-your-back spa thing. This is deep tissue massage. I was squirming when my massage therapist would get to my neck. My muscles were so tight that it was uncomfortable (I had to practice my deep breathing) for her to work on them.
With a regular program of chiropractic care and massages, I was able to say goodbye to 95% of my headaches (in combination with the next point). Sound expensive? It depends on what your insurance covers, but it is the most effective method I have tried to date.
Here’s a resource from my chiropractor – he says that “95% of all headaches actually originate from your cervical spine, or from your neck.”
*Cheaper version: get a friend/family member/significant other to massage your neck regularly, especially after working out or sitting in front of the computer for a long time.
Clean Up Your Diet
Quitting sugar (really, getting serious about minimizing your sugar intake) is HUGE. During my 6 month experiment of no sugar, I had headaches from withdrawing from sugar (addicted much?) for a few weeks and then – no more headaches! No more calling in sick to work, no more desperation for an afternoon nap. You guys are used to hearing this from me, but I know it works. Wake up with a headache before your morning coffee? Yea, might be time to quit coffee and drink water instead. What you put in your body will either have a positive effect or a negative one.
Re-Evaluate Your Sleeping Position
I realized that I sleep in a weird position and that my pain and stiffness is usually greatest in the morning. By consciously adjusting how I slept, I was able to enjoy the results of my chiro care/massage longer. Instead of curling up into a ball and waking up with a sore neck, I was able to sleep in a better position for my neck muscles (and my hips/lower back, too). Pay attention to what hurts or is stiff in the morning and see if you can adjust how you sleep to help.
*Also, let me remind you to actually SLEEP! A regular sleep schedule is amazing for your health. You should be getting 7-9 hours every single night.
Take Breaks From Your Phone + Computer
Your neck muscles are designed to support your head, which is about 10-12 lbs (depending on how smart you are, haha). For each inch you drop your head forward – to text or look at your laptop – you double that load on your neck muscles. So if you regularly drop your head down to your chest to text in your lap, your neck muscles are now dealing with anywhere from 30 to 60 lbs of extra pressure. If you stretch a muscle too long, it gets fatigued, then sore, then inflamed. Hello neck pain! And now we know neck pain can often cause a headache.
Turns out Mom was right – posture is important! I asked my chiropractor how I can have better posture. He told me that women often round their shoulders, lower their head, and hunch their back. We need to sit/stand up straight, put our shoulders back where they belong, hold our chest out a little, and hold our head high, chin up. If you have any dancer friends, you know what this looks like! Guess I need to work on my “proper lady” skills!
Articles on what Experts are Calling “Text Neck”
Taking care of ourselves doesn’t feel glamorous. In fact, it’s much too easy to put everything else ahead of our health. But if you’re sick of having headaches all the time, you can do something about it!