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Migraines & headaches health centre

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Treating your own headaches

Treating a headache doesn't always need tablets. Some people find home remedies can help bring headache pain relief:

  • Apply an ice pack to the painful area of your head. Try placing it on your forehead, temples or the back of your neck. Never put an ice pack directly against the skin, always wrap it in a cloth.
  • Have a warm bath or shower, take a nap, or go for a walk.
  • Ask someone to rub your neck and back, or treat yourself to a massage. Experts think massage works by relaxing tight muscles that trigger headaches as well as helping to reduce pain and stress.
  • Apply gentle, steady, rotating pressure to the painful area of your head with your index finger and thumb. Maintain pressure for seven to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed.
  • Rest, sit, or lie quietly in a dimly-lit room. Close your eyes and try to release the tension in your back, neck and shoulders.
  • If you have excessive muscle contractions in the neck, physiotherapy exercises performed daily are often helpful.
  • Slowing down breathing to relax, counting slowly to five as you breathe in and count to five again as you breathe out.
  • Relax the mind and think of something peaceful like a beach. This is called guided imagery or mental imagery relaxation.
  • Try listening to relaxing music
  • Consider yoga or tai chi
  • Take some exercise to release natural endorphins and feel better.

It may also help to try to find out what may be triggering a headache to prevent it happening. Triggers can include stress, the weather and food and drink, including alcohol. Painkillers taken to treat a headache can actually cause more headaches if used to often.


When to seek medical attention

Headaches are not usually a sign of anything serious, but seek medical advice if you feel unwell between headaches, headaches don't respond to over the counter treatment or the headaches have a serious effect on your life, such as having to take time off work.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 05, 2016

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