11 Secrets for Getting Rid of Headaches

By Dr. Brent Wells, DC

A woman with her baby having a headache.

For almost every person on the planet, headaches are, well, a headache! Chances are that you’ve had one fairly recently, but for those who get them regularly, the one thing they are looking for is relief.

While you can always pop a few over the counter pain pills, they wreak havoc on your liver and if you get frequent headaches, you really don’t want to go that route.

Let’s not forget that for some types of headaches, pain killers like Advil or Tylenol simply don’t work.

So how to get rid of a headache?

That would depend.

Why do I have a headache?

That would also depend.

Let’s spend just a minute talking about what type of headache you have so you can find out the best way to get rid of it.

When Should You be Concerned about a Headache?

A man touching his face and looking desperate.

While most headaches are painful, they usually aren’t serious. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Be aware that if any of the following apply to you, see your doctor immediately, go to the emergency room or call 911:

  • Headache that also have painful, red eyes
  • An unusual change in what is a normal headache for you
  • Headaches after accidents or a blow to the head
  • Headaches that also include a stiff neck, confusion, fever, slurred speech, weakness, or decreased levels of alertness
  • Headaches that get worse instead of better despite treatment(s)
  • Headaches so severe they interfere with normal activity
  • Headaches that wake you up from a sound sleep
  • “Thunderclap” headaches that come on quickly and are often described as “the worst headache of your life”

Headache, Headache, Go Away!

We understand that, more than anything else, you want to know how to get rid of that headache fast!

What are the best ways to get rid of a headache and how do you treat a severe headache? We have answers for you with 11 little-known secrets for getting rid of whatever type of headache you have.

11 Secrets for Getting Rid of Headaches

Secret #1: Get Rid of Your Tension Headache

A woman on a couch touching her forehead.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache people complain about. As you can imagine, this type of pain is caused by stress and tension. While over the counter pain relieves usually work, they can lead to rebound headaches (see secret #9).

How can you get rid of a tension headache fast? Try some of the following:

  • Chiropractic Massage – Is there anything better than a massage to reduce stress and tension? Now imagine getting one at the direction of your chiropractor? The chiropractor can direct the therapist to work on tight muscles and problem areas, providing not only tension relief, but long-lasting pain relief.
  • Limit Alcohol – While this might not help with your tension headache today, you can prevent future tension headaches by limiting your alcohol consumption. Studies show that alcohol consumption can lead to tension headaches, even if you aren’t drunk.
  • Peppermint or Lavender Essential Oil – Just a drop of either one of these oils massaged into the temples has been shown to stop tension headaches. You can further reduce tension and stress by placing another drop of lavender oil on the upper lip and inhaling the scent.
  • Coenzyme Q10 Supplements – This is a natural substance produced by the body that turns our food into energy while working as an antioxidant. For some reason, studies show that people who take 100mgs of COQ10 had fewer headaches than those who did not.
  • Yoga – Since tension headaches stem from stress, you might want to start a yoga program to reduce stress. Both headache frequency and intensity were reduced in those who took yoga classes compared to those who did not, according to one study.
  • Get Some Exercise – It sounds impossible, but studies show that those who engage in exercise at least 3 times a week have fewer headaches. In the case of tension headaches, this is most likely due to lower stress levels.

If you feel like you have tried everything, and you still suffer from chronic tension headaches, speak with your doctor or chiropractor about what your next steps should be.

Secret #2: Get Rid of Your Sinus Headache

A man touching his head looking desperate.

Hopefully, your sinus headache isn’t caused by a sinus infection. If you have pain in your upper teeth, a fever, and a yellow or green nasal discharge, you might have an infection. See your doctor for antibiotics.

However, if you regularly get sinus headaches due to changes in air pressure or other reasons, you can try some of the following remedies:

  • Try a Hot Shower – You want your sinuses to drain and steam usually does the trick. Try taking a hot shower or holding your head over a pot of steaming water. Be careful not to burn your face!
  • Neti Pot – This ancient remedy comes to us from India. These little teapot looking items have a long spout that goes inside one nostril. The water solution will go through the sinuses and come out the other nostril, removing mucus.
  • Hot and Cold Compresses – Many people find relief by alternating between hot and cold compresses placed on their forehead. This reduces swelling and allows the sinuses to drain.
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil – This powerful smelling oil from Eucalyptus leaves really works to clear up sinuses. Try smelling a few drops placed on a cloth for 10 minutes or put a drop or two in hot water and breathe in the steam.

If you think your sinus headache might be due to an allergy, be sure to read secret #3.

Secret #3: Get Rid of Your Allergy Headache

Allergies are also a common headache inducer. One of the problems is trying to find out what you are allergic to. Some of the best ways to do this include:
  • Avoid Nitrates and Nitrites – These are common food preservatives in many processed types of meat like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs. This is a preservative, but many people have an allergic reaction to them that causes headaches instead of hives.
  • Avoid Powerful Odors – This can be difficult to do but pay attention to your surroundings. Anytime you are near a strong odor, such as perfume, paint, nail polish, hair spray, cleaning products, or cigarette smoke, and you get a headache soon afterward, you are probably experiencing an allergic reaction.
  • The Elimination Diet – You might think that food allergies result in hives, but they sometimes result in headaches. Even if you aren’t allergic to the food itself, you might be sensitive to other items in the food, such as artificial colors or preservatives. Some of the most common food items that cause headaches are cheese, chocolate, citrus fruit, coffee, and alcohol. Try removing these items.
If you are still having headaches that you believe are allergy-related, see your doctor or chiropractor for more advice.

Secret #4: Get Rid of Your Migraine Headache

A woman touching her forehead to alleviate the pain.

Migraines are a nightmare for the people who suffer from them. The pain is intense and can last for days for some persons. Most people with migraines cannot stand light or sound, which virtually debilitates them, making them prisoners in their bedrooms. There are dozens of medications, but very few actually work. Some of the best migraine remedies include:

  • Chiropractic Care – Studies show that spinal adjustments, one of the main treatments of chiropractors, are an effective means of preventing migraines and reducing the intensity of these headaches. While it won’t stop a migraine today, imagine stopping future migraines with just a few adjustments?
  • Avoid High Histamine Foods – While histamine is a natural substance found in the body, certain foods that are high in histamines, like cheese, wine, beer, processed meats, smoked fish, and fermented foods like pickles, can cause migraine headaches for some people who are sensitive to these products.
  • Take Magnesium – This mineral is vital for every function in the body and most American’s are deficient in it. Not only have studies shown that taking magnesium can stop a migraine, it can also reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Supplements can be hard on the stomach. Try using magnesium rich oils or take baths that contain Epsom salts.
  • Cold Compress – Some people say that they have found pain relief by holding ice or a cold compress to the back of the neck.
  • Caffeine – Small amounts of caffeine (1 cup of coffee) can reduce the severity of a migraine headache by constricting the blood vessels. Be careful not to consume too much caffeine or it can have the opposite effect.

Secret #5: Get Rid of Your Exertion Headache

  • Exertion headaches are a real bummer. You just finish doing something great and before you can admire your accomplishment, your head is pounding. While these aren’t as well known as migraines, they can be every bit as painful. Some of the best tips for stopping an exertion headache include:

    • Cooling down. An exertion headache is your body’s way of saying that you have overextended yourself. Try drinking some cool water and taking a break for 20-30 minutes.
    • Avoid Triggers. Take note when you get these headaches and see if you can find a trigger. Some people discover that they are dehydrated, or they occur on days when they didn’t sleep well the night before.
    • See Your Chiropractor. If you get these headaches when you are exercising, it might be due to incorrect posture. Lifting heavy weights or running with your head too far forward or back will limit the blood flow and cause muscle tension. Your chiropractor can help to adjust your spine and neck, as well as suggest improvements to your form as you work out.

    If you still cannot find the source of your exertion headache, speak with your doctor or chiropractor about other possibilities.

Secret #6: Get Rid of Your Cluster Headache

A woman touching her head looking desperate.

Ugh! Talk about a headache that won’t go away! Cluster headaches aren’t actually headaches but is pain that comes from the dilation of a blood vessel which then touches a large nerve which runs from the side of the ear, down to the face and jaw. It is unknown why this occurs, but it tends to run in cycles, with episodes happening every night for several weeks or months, then disappearing for weeks or months or, for some people, forever.

The pain of a cluster headache is worse than a migraine, but they don’t tend to last as long. Some people have described these as a hot poker being shoved in your eye or down your ear. Since the root cause is unknown and prevention is impossible, you will need to find ways to deal with these headaches as they occur. Some remedies that have worked include:

  • Prednisone – While we don’t like to recommend taking medication unless absolutely necessary, taking the steroid prednisone for a short time (7-10 days) will stop the cluster headache for most people within 24 hours. It is unknown why this works or why it doesn’t work for everyone, but it has proven to be effective for many people.
  • Chiropractic Care – Like prednisone, the reasons why chiropractic works is unknown, but there are hundreds of testimonials from people who, after receiving adjustments, found that their cluster headaches disappeared. This is most likely because of joints in the neck that were out of alignment and adjustments restore a normal range of motion.
  • Chiropractic Massage – Some believe that cluster headaches stem from excessive amounts of stress. Chiropractic massage is a terrific way to relieve stress and restore the natural balance to the body.
  • Avoid Possible Triggers – Some people say that consuming any alcohol or being near any tobacco smoke will bring on an attack within hours.

Remember that pain medication will not work for cluster headaches so there is no point in taking any sort of over the counter or even prescription pain killers.

If you are suffering from any type of recurring headache, we encourage you to contact us at Better Health Anchorage for a same-day chiropractic appointment by clicking here. No one should suffer from headache pain and we will gladly check your insurance coverage, so you have one less headache to worry about!

An infographic about 11 little secrets for stopping headache pain.

Secret #7: Get Rid of Your Caffeine Headache

This seems fairly straight forward, right? Missing caffeine, drink a cup? Unfortunately, by the time you have reached headache status, a cup of coffee or a soda will not stop the headache. You can try some of the following:

  • Peppermint or Lavender Essential Oil – Try massaging a drop of either oil into the temples.
  • Ice Packs – Some people find that ice packs, especially when applied to the back of the neck, stop caffeine headaches.
  • Stimulate Pressure Points – Pressing on certain parts of the body can relieve pain, including headaches. One study found that acupressure treatments relieved headaches better than muscle relaxers. Try pressing down on the spot between the base of your thumb and your index finger for a full 5 minutes, then repeat on the opposite hand.
  • Take a Nap – This one seems to work for most people. Drink a cup of coffee or some other caffeinated beverage, then lie down and take a nap for 30-60 minutes. That headache should be gone.

You might want to start alternating decaf coffee with regular coffee until you can break the caffeine habit entirely.

Secret #8: Get Rid of Your Hormone Headache

A woman stretching her neck.

Estrogen levels affect many things in a woman’s body and that can include giving you a headache. If you experience headaches just before the start of or in the first days of your cycle, these are known as menstrual migraines. Other headaches, such as those that start when you ovulate, are often called hormone headaches. You can’t stop Mother Nature or your hormones, but you can try the following tips:

  • Yoga – Practicing yoga on a regular basis can help to prevent these headaches from occurring.
  • Sleep – Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night allows the body to remove old hormones and make new ones. This might prevent an overload of hormones, which can lead to a headache.
  • Chiropractic Massage – Stress leads to headaches and massage therapy is one of the best ways to reduce stress and give you a feeling of being well cared for.
  • Try a Different Birth Control Pill – Some types of birth control pills tend to have more side effects than others, including headaches. Ask your doctor about switching to another brand and see if it helps.

Your doctor or chiropractor might be able to offer you other suggestions if the above remedies do not seem to help.

Secret #9: Get Rid of Your Rebound Headache

Rebound headaches come from the overuse of over the counter pain meds. These headaches are intense but are very dull. If you suffer from frequent headaches and take these pain relievers frequently (more than twice a month) you could be adding to your headache problem rather than stopping it.

Unfortunately, the only way to stop rebound headaches is to stop the cause: pain medications. You need to stop taking pain killers to prevent rebound headaches and find out what the root cause is of the headache you are taking medication for.

Your chiropractor can help you find natural alternatives, so you can avoid headaches, and rebound headaches, in the future.

Secret #10: Get Rid of Your Post-Traumatic Headache

As if being whacked upside the head wasn’t enough, it often brings headaches that can last for months, even as long as a year. Depending on the type of injury, cervical or cervicogenic headaches stem from damaged muscles, ligaments, and misaligned vertebrae in the neck. Musculoskeletal headaches are the result of damaged muscles and connective tissue in the neck, jaw, and shoulders. Treatments for post-traumatic headaches will vary, but include:

  • Chiropractic Care – Realigning the vertebrae in the neck will allow faster healing and fewer headaches.
  • Chiropractic Massage – Massage brings many benefits, including relaxing muscles and improving circulation so fresh blood can bring healing nutrients.
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy exercises can strengthen neck and shoulder muscles, as well as make them more flexible. Most chiropractors have physical therapy in their clinics, so you can take advantage of both treatments.

The biggest factor with post-traumatic headaches is early treatment. See your doctor or chiropractor sooner as opposed to later to help prevent these injury-related headaches.

Secret #11: Get Rid of Your Unknown Cause Headache

A woman touching her head.

The unknown headache. Sometimes, nothing seems to work, and you just don’t know why you have this headache that won’t go away.

It’s usually trial and error in this case. Some natural, non-pharmaceutical treatments are:

  • B Vitamin Complex Supplements – Both B2 and B12 deficiencies have been linked to frequent headaches. Taking a supplement regularly can reduce the number of headaches, according to studies.
  • Cold Compress – This is an ancient home remedy that does seem to work for many people. Try placing it on the back of your neck and/or on the forehead.
  • Feverfew – This plant was used by Native American’s to stop fevers, but it can also be used to prevent headaches. Some studies found feverfew to be effective, but others did not.
  • Butterbur – Like feverfew, the extracts from this plant are high in anti-inflammatory compounds, so it can reduce headaches in doses of 50-150 mgs.
  • Ginger Tea – Here’s a tasty remedy. Ginger has anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as antioxidants that seem to help with headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Drink two cups of ginger tea when you have a headache.
An infographic about the top 11 most common types of headaches.

We hope that you found this information helpful. If you did, please feel free to share it with others.

Types of Headaches

A woman looking stressed and holding her head.

Before you can stop it, you need to identify it. What works for a tension headache will not work for migraine. See if you can recognize your type of headache:

  • Tension headache – the most common type. This is often described as a dull, aching feeling all over the head. Shoulder or neck tightness or pain is not uncommon.
  • Sinus headaches– Sometimes the flu or a bout with a cold will give you a sinus headache. If you feel pressure behind your eyes, aching in your teeth, and if the pain gets worse when you bend over, you probably have a sinus headache.
  • Allergy headache – An allergic reaction can give you a headache and many people mistakenly think they have a sinus headache.
  • Migraine headache– This type of headache leaves a person so vulnerable to sound and light that they often lie in dark rooms with the curtains drawn. Nausea and vomiting, as well as seeing flashing lights is common.
  • Exertion headache -After periods of heavy physical activity, such as running or even after sex, the increased blood flow to the brain can cause a headache. These are often described as a throbbing headache that is on both sides of the head.
  • Caffeine headache – Since caffeine affects the flow of blood to the brain, too much caffeine, as well as too little, can cause a doozy of a headache.
  • Hormone headache – Women frequently have headaches due to a hormonal fluctuation.
  • Rebound headache – When you frequently use over the counter pain meds, these can actually bring on another headache. Many people describe these as the worst tension headache or even a migraine headache.
  • Post-traumatic headache – After any type of accident or head injury, it is not uncommon to have a headache. Unfortunately, these can last as long as 12 months after the incident.
  • Cluster headache – Not actually a headache, though many people think they are. Cluster headaches tend to happen soon after a person falls asleep, with excruciating pain that tends to be on one side of the head, down the side of the face and under the jaw. They last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours and are sometimes called “Suicide headaches” because the pain is so intense, people have committed suicide rather than deal with them.
  • The Unknown Cause headache – Everyone’s favorite. Sometimes, the root cause of a headache simply isn’t known.

Hopefully, you have identified your type of headache from the list above.

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The portrait of Dr. Brent Wells.

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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