Beat the Pain Without the Pills: 4 Natural Ways to Soothe a Migraine
You have a packed calendar and a slew of deadlines when — bam! —a headache hits. Since taking a sick day and sleeping it off isn’t always an option, having a few proven headache remedies to lean on can help you feel better and make it through your afternoon.
Here are a few headache remedies backed by science — that don’t involve popping a pill or taking supplements.
1. Stay Hydrated
Need extra motivation to drink more water? Dehydration can cause headaches, but sipping more H2O could keep them at bay. Drinking water might offer relief for some types of headaches in 30 minutes to three hours.
2. Freeze It Out
Remember how soothing a cold washcloth felt when you were sick as a kid? It turns out Mom and Dad were onto something. Chilled or frozen compresses might help reduce headache pain when placed around your neck at the onset. The coolness may help narrow blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
3. Massage It Away
Getting massages may help tension headaches go away faster by relaxing the muscles of your neck and shoulders. Trigger point massage may also potentially reduce the frequency of tension headaches (but not their intensity or length). If you carry your stress in your neck and shoulders, work these neck exercises into your weekly self-care routine.
4. Exercise Regularly
Those feel-good vibes you get from a workout might also modulate pain! A survey of 92,566 people suggests a connection between being inactive and getting more migraine headaches. Sounds like reason enough to chase that “runner’s high“! (Not a runner? That’s OK. Any physical activity counts, according to the study.)
What to Do if These Remedies Don’t Work
When it comes to headaches, prevention is the best medicine, says Dr. James Tinsley, MD, a family physician who runs a direct primary care practice in Newport News, Va. “Figure out your triggers,” he says, adding that headaches can be serious.
One study says possible migraine triggers might include:
- Environmental factors like weather, lights, and noise
- Alcohol intake
Don’t hesitate to confirm the cause with your doctor, especially if you get headaches or migraines regularly.
- Water, hydration, and health www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
- Randomized controlled trial: targeted neck cooling in the treatment of the migraine patient www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727573/
- Massage therapy and frequency of chronic tension headaches www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447303/
- Myofascial trigger point-focused head and neck massage for recurrent tension-type headache: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25329141/
- Triggers of migraine and tension-type headache www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0072975210970127