How to stop a headache causing you stress

Have you ever had a headache that was so bad that all you could do was spend time in a darkened room, unable to speak, with a freezing flannel over your eyes? Well, you’re not alone. Sadly for over 8 million people in the UK, according to Migraine Action and the Migraine Trust, that’s exactly the case. But it’s not only migraine’s that cause us stress. All types of headache can cause us serious pain and grief.


Before we delve into things, if you’re having recurring or persistent headaches, blurry vision, feeling sick with headache or just not able to work or concentrate because of a headache, then please please please see your doctor. It’s really important. Headaches are not one of those things to ignore, because they can be a sign of something much more serious.

Okay, so we’re going to be talking about the most common types of headaches; cluster, tension, histamine, migraines and PMS related and what we can do to ease them.

How different can a headache be?

We know that the common characteristic of headache is pain, but there can be so many other differences. For example, cluster headaches are not one, but several extremely painful headaches that can occur over a number of hours, days or even weeks. The pain is often around the eyes and the top of the head, leaving you with watery eyes and a runny nose.

Tension headache pain is different. It’s felt throughout the head, and often caused by muscular tension. The pain can stretch from the neck right up into the temples, head and eyes. It can be severe, but only last for minutes, or it could progress for hours. Tension headaches are often linked to physical and emotional stress.

Histamine headaches are caused by an allergic inflammatory reaction, as with hay fever or allergies to dust. As fluid builds up around the eyes and nose, it causes pain, a runny nose and streaming watery eyes.

PMS headaches are very common. Even so, there are no conclusions about their origins; instead we have a multitude of theories about the cause. Much has been made of the imbalance in hormones – either too much (or little) oestrogen and/or too much (or little) progesterone. But there is also, dare I say it once again, the link to issues with blood sugar instability.

Migraines often have a category all of their own, because whilst all headaches can be horrible, migraines can be something truly different. To exemplify this, there’s a study which The World Health Organisation (WHO) cites, the ‘Global Burden of Disease’ (2013). In it migraines have been categorised in terms of a disability. This is due to the number of active, not months, but years that a person can lose to them.

One of the difficulties with migraines which make them difficult to manage, is their numerous triggers and symptoms. You can experience severe pain in the head, eyes and temples, but also nausea and vomiting, shooting pains, the inability to tolerate light, or seeing flashing lights, and being sensitive to smells.

So what can help?

1.Firstly, identify your headache type and go to the doctor if it needs more investigation. Also keep a record or diary about your headaches so that you can start to recognise the patterns. This can help you to navigate towards your triggers and work towards finding the actual cause. Is it physical or mental – perhaps stress, not eating, being dehydrated, or even a particular smell?

2.Eat well and stay hydrated. Headaches cause the vessels and muscles around the head and neck to tighten and reduce blood flow. Staying hydrated is critical. So getting into the habit of drinking 6 – 8 glasses of water throughout the day can help.

It’s also easy to forget to eat something when we’re busy, but eating regularly helps to fuel our bodies, feed our brains and regulate blood sugar which is really important in warding off migraines. My tip is to always carry a snack! But if you’re out and don’t have anything with you, then these snacks could help to keep you going.

3.Get to know your magnesium and calcium sources. These are essential for the healthy contraction of nerves, vessels and muscle tissue and to relax our muscles. We get rich sources of magnesium from nuts; almonds, cashews and Brazils, which make a great snack. Also good are grains; rye, wheat bran, millet, buckwheat or brown rice. Try adding wheat bran along with dates or apricots; another rich source to porridge. Or have marmite and avocado on granary toast. Other good sources are spinach, coconut and prawns.

Calcium is so important for our bones that foods are often fortified with this mineral. But calcium is also critical for helping muscle fibres to contract and release. Good food sources are dairy; cows or goats milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, seeds; sunflower and sesame seed, olives, broccoli and leafy green vegetables, tinned sardines. An easy win is to add milk, yogurt, avocado or tofu and seeds to smoothies.

4.Beyond nutrition, it’s important to learn how to release tension even before a headache sets in. Try finding a quiet space where you can breathe or simply stretch, go for a walk, practice yoga or meditation or even dance to release the knots. The point is, find what works for you and build it into your health routine.

Another great tip if you’re feeling tense and are able to have a bath, is to add mineral salts which contain magnesium. It also leaves your skin feeling silky smooth!

I hope that this helps. Know that although headaches may be horrible, it’s not impossible to do something about them. If you feel that you may be experiencing any of these issues and want to discuss things further, then please do contact me click here



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