Quickest way to get rid of headaches: 17+ Ways to Get Rid of a Headache Quickly
How To Get Rid Of A Migraine Fast, According To Doctors
Ask anyone who suffers from migraines what the experience is like, and you’ll probably hear words like “agonizing” and “terrible” thrown around. Migraines are no joke and, if you’re unlucky enough to experience one, it’s understandable to find yourself Googling “ways to get rid of a migraine” to try to get relief ASAP, if not sooner.
To make things even worse, migraines can come out of nowhere and last for an undetermined amount of time. A migraine can last anywhere from four to 72 hours (not a typo) without treatment.
For patients, “migraine headaches are a constant burden in their busy lives,” says Kiran F. Rajneesh MD, director of the Neurological Pain Division at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “They interfere with every aspect of their lives—family time, vacations, work deadlines, holidays, and weekends.” People who suffer from migraines “constantly need to alter their plans or take into account their migraine headaches at all times,” Dr. Rajneesh says.
People also just find that life is harder when they’re dealing with migraines, says Amit Sachdev, MD, the director of the division of neuromuscular medicine at Michigan State University. “They’re able to engage in day-to-day activities but their enjoyment is significantly degraded,” Dr. Sachdev says. “They may be less engaged with spouses, co-workers, and children than they would prefer.”
The TL; DR: Migraines suck. So, what can you do about it? Migraines are a complicated form of headache, and what works for one person may not be best for another. Still, there are certain treatments that are considered helpful with migraine. These are the biggies to reach for the next time a migraine strikes.
How to get rid of a migraine
You have a few different options when it comes to dealing with a migraine. Try one or several of these out to get relief.
- Take an NSAID. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) “help block the production of prostaglandins, which are involved in generating migraines,” Dr. Sachdev says. They also help decrease overall inflammation in your body, Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Pop an acetaminophen. The exact way acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) works against migraines isn’t entirely clear, “though this is one of the most common medications used for migraine,” Dr. Sachdev says. It’s thought to “affect that inflammatory signaling molecules [in your brain], decreasing the overall inflammation,” Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Have some—but not too much—caffeine. Caffeine “acts by temporarily constricting blood vessels in the brain, thereby decreasing pain,” Dr. Rajneesh says. Worth noting: Caffeine can be a migraine trigger, so you want to have this in moderation (think: one cup of coffee, not three). Some migraine medications, like Excedrin Migraine, even include caffeine.
- Ask your doctor about triptans. Triptans are prescription drugs like sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra) and rizatriptan (Maxalt, Maxalt-MLT). These are a “very effective class of drugs for breaking up a migraine once it has already started,” Dr. Sachdev says. “Many migraine patients have triptans for use in moderate to severe headache days,” he adds. Triptans specifically constrict blood vessels and work to decrease electrochemical imbalances, Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Try meditation. It sounds ridiculously simple, but using relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises “modulates several regions of the brain such as sleep centers and pain-relief centers in the brain and helps regenerate and recharge our own bodies intrinsically,” Dr. Rajneesh says. Start with these awesome meditation apps.
- Do what you can to minimize stress. This, Dr. Rajneesh says, will “decrease abnormal hormonal release and restore normal balance” in your body.
- Get moving. Sure, this can be tricky when you’re in pain, but exercising “activates our own body’s pain relief centers in the brain to release pain relievers—endorphins—into the blood stream,” Dr. Rajneesh says. (BTW: Walking counts!)
- Use a cold compress. As a whole, most sufferers with migraine headache prefer cold packs, according to the National Headache Foundation. The foundation specifically recommends applying cold packs to the forehead and temples to get relief.
- Try to get some sleep. Easier said than done when you’re in agony, but sleep relaxes irritation in your head that can come with migraine, Dr. Sachdev says.
- Take a blood pressure-lowering medication. Beta blockers like propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran XL) and metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor) can help “restore balance” in your brain, Dr. Rajneesh says.
How to prevent migraines from happening in the first place
Here’s the thing: As tricky as it is, there’s only so much you can do to prevent migraines. Still, there are some steps you can take to lower the risk you’ll have one anytime soon or, at least, as often as you have in the past. These are definitely worth trying out:
- Get Botox. Botox does more than prevent wrinkles. It also “blocks pain signals from reaching the brain,” Dr. Sachdev says. When used properly, it can decrease the number of headaches you have, Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Use an anti-depressant medication. A tricyclic antidepressant medication like amitriptyline acts on neurons (aka brain cells) and decreases electrochemical imbalances in your brain, Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Stay well hydrated. In general, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men take in 15.5 cups of fluids a day and women have 11.5 cups.
- Prioritize sleep. In general, you want to aim to have at least seven hours a night, Dr. Rajneesh says.
- Watch how much sugar and caffeine you have. Both can be migraine triggers, Dr. Rajneesh points out.
If you’re struggling with migraine, talk to your doctor. They should be able to offer up personalized guidance to help you get the best level of care.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.
4 Ways to Quickly Relieve Head Pain
How to Get Rid of a Headache: 4 Ways to Quickly Relieve Head Pain
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You can usually get rid of a headache with a combination of these four methods, but in other cases, you may need to see your doctor.
- The best ways to get rid of a headache include drinking more water, eating balanced meals, trying relaxation techniques like deep breathing, and taking medication like Tylenol.
- Headaches can be caused by many factors — including stress, poor diet, and underlying medical conditions — and figuring out what’s triggering your headache can be important for treating it.
- This article was medically reviewed by Medhat Mikhael, MD, pain management specialist and medical director of the non-operative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A headache is one of the most common and irritating types of pain. In order to relieve your headache, it’s first helpful to know what’s causing it.
There are two main types of headaches. A primary headache occurs independently of any other medical condition. Whereas a secondary headache is a side effect of another health issue such as a sinus infection or high blood pressure.
Secondary headaches are most effectively treated by addressing the underlying medical condition. But there are many simple ways to get rid of a primary headache. Here’s how.
How to get rid of a headache
“When it comes to primary headaches that have no other underlying cause, figuring out your headache ‘triggers’ and avoiding them is the best defense,” says Vernon Williams, MD, director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute.
Headache triggers can be a specific part of your lifestyle — like diet, stress, or sleep habits — that bring on the pain of a headache. Here are the best ways to avoid or get rid of your triggers:
- Hydrate. If you suspect dehydration could be the cause of your head pain, make sure you’re drinking enough water each day. Experts recommend dividing your weight by two, so if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink about 75 fluid ounces each day. “As your body becomes dehydrated, the blood vessels of your brain narrow in an attempt to conserve water,” says Carrie Lam, MD, a physician. And stay away from alcohol — congeners, the chemicals present in alcoholic beverages, can also trigger headaches.
- Eat balanced meals. If you have poor eating habits, like skipping meals or frequently snacking, you could experience headaches triggered by changes in blood sugar. Individuals who are prone to headaches should begin by focusing on eating three balanced meals each day that include a healthy source of protein — such as milk, fish, or meat. From there, you may be able to recognize food sensitivities by taking note of how you feel following a meal or snack, and determining which aspects of your diet may be causing your headaches.
- Deep breathing. Stress can increase muscle tension, dilate blood vessels, and trigger headaches — and tension headaches are often associated with stress. Tension headaches can include pain in the forehead, the scalp, and the neck. If stress is behind your headache, deep breathing techniques may help you relax. Something as simple as slowing down your breath — for example, counting to five as you inhale and then five again as you exhale — can help you handle stressors and relieve head pain. Trying meditation or yoga may also help.
- Medication. “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and caffeine are over-the-counter treatments that many patients find effective at stopping a migraine headache in its tracks,” says Williams. Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, relieves headache symptoms by blocking pain signals to the brain. Anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen or Advil, keep the body from producing chemicals responsible for inflammation. These medications can often work for tension headaches, as well.
When to see a doctor for your headache
“Most headaches are episodic, meaning they are infrequent and don’t require medical attention,” says Williams. One of the treatment methods above may provide relief, or the headache can even resolve on its own.
However, more severe or persistent head pain should be checked out by a doctor. If your headache occurs three or more times in one month, Williams says, then it’s a good idea to speak with your primary care provider.
In addition, headaches that follow physical injury or include other concerning symptoms may require serious medical attention.
“If a headache follows a blow to the head, is accompanied by sudden, excruciating pain, a stiff neck, fever, convulsions, confusion, loss of consciousness, or associated with severe pain in the eye or ear, then immediate medical evaluation is crucial,” says Williams.
Finally, you may want to see your doctor if you experience headaches alongside blurring of vision, double vision, facial numbness, or any cognitive changes. Even if these symptoms go away, it’s important to get yourself checked out.
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Anxiety often leads to headaches – we have seen this especially often in recent days. Our neurologist Nina Vashchenko will give advice on how to stop these headaches:
“The anxiety and fear caused by anxiety can trigger or worsen a headache. There are two types of headaches associated with anxiety: tension headaches and migraines.
1. Tension headaches
Develops with anxiety and stress, but may have other triggers. The duration of attacks is from several hours to several days. They are not strong enough to significantly affect your daily life, but they can still negatively affect its quality.
– dull, aching headache;
a feeling of constriction or pressure on the forehead, temples and/or occiput, like a hoop around the head;
– increased sensitivity of the scalp, tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders.
Anxiety provokes migraine. It can last for several days and interfere with your daily activities.
– throbbing pain in the head;
pain on one side of the head or face;
– nausea or vomiting;
– blurred vision, impaired concentration;
– hypersensitivity to light, sound, smells.
What to do?
1. Reducing anxiety is the best way to get rid of an anxiety headache:
– reduce the amount of “screen time” if the problem is caused by disturbing news;
– learn anxiety reduction strategies to manage your anxiety levels, as the more anxiety, the more intense the headache can be;
– if you can’t manage it yourself, contact a specialist, he will help you find ways to reduce your anxiety.
2. Take medication if needed (over-the-counter paracetamol, ibuprofen, or a prescription prescribed by your doctor). Medication relieves the pain, but does not solve the problem. And remember that some medications may make your condition worse, not better.
Non-drug therapies are also available.
3. Take care of yourself. Self-care can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, including headaches. For example, get at least 7 and no more than 10 hours of sleep a day, get regular physical activity, don’t skip meals, and drink plenty of water.
If your headache is getting out of hand, see a specialist!
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Complicated cases of headache: hemiplegic migraine. Part 1
Complicated cases of headache: migraine with stem aura. Part 2
Complicated cases of headache: migraine, not amenable to treatment. Part 3
Chocolate, sex and cold. What can cause a headache and how to deal with it
– Headaches are familiar to many, and usually people cope with them on their own. But when do you need to go to the doctor?
– We must start with how long the head hurts. If your head has never hurt in your life and suddenly started to hurt, especially in people over 50 years old, you definitely need to see a doctor to make a diagnosis and exclude secondary headache, that is, headache as a symptom of another disease.
If the patient periodically has a headache, if the attacks become more frequent, happen more than four days a month, or become poorly controlled, then you need to go to a neurologist. And it’s even better to see a neurologist who specializes in headaches – a cephalgologist or a migraine specialist. The doctor diagnoses the type of headache, teaches how to stop attacks correctly and, if necessary, prescribes preventive therapy.
— What diseases can a headache indicate?
– If it is secondary, then for inflammation of the maxillary and frontal sinuses (sinusitis, frontal sinusitis), neck pathology. There is also pain associated with a head or neck injury, with a viral infection, with dental pathology, high-altitude headache or headache when diving under water, headache with mental illness.
As you can see, there may be enough reasons. What kind of disease provoked the appearance of a secondary headache can only be found out by a doctor after a full examination.
– What unexpected causes of headache can be identified?
— There are more than three hundred types of headaches in the international classification. Headache associated with cold exposure occurs in some patients when they eat ice cream or in winter. It usually goes away on its own and does not require any preventive and analgesic therapy.
There is headache associated with the use of certain drugs, cough pain, vestibular headache, headache associated with sexual activity (for some, for example, occurs after intercourse), and hypnic headache that occurs at night.
— What are the most common types of headaches?
— Tension headache is the most common type of primary headache. As a rule, it occurs in stressful situations and is associated with tension in the pericranial muscles – the muscles that are on the neck are attached to the head.
The second most common primary headache is migraine. It is a genetic disorder and the prevalence of migraine varies. It occurs in about 20% of the total population, that is, in every fifth, more often in women. A person will have to learn to live with it, it will not be possible to get rid of it forever. It has an undulating course, during life. In some women, with the onset of menopause, migraines often go away.
– What is the reason for this?
– Female sex hormones are “to blame”. Women live under the influence of changing hormonal levels. With age, these hormones become less and migraine lessens.
And there are interesting moments. Migraine happens with and without aura. The aura is the symptoms (visual, sensory) that precede the headache. The migraine aura necessarily precedes the headache.
So, if a patient is diagnosed with migraine with aura, contraceptives that contain estrogens are contraindicated for her. With migraine without aura, estrogens are allowed.
– Estrogens contribute to blood clotting, excessive thrombosis, which in turn is a risk of stroke. And with migraines with aura, the risk of thrombosis is already increased.
— How can you tell a migraine from a tension headache?
— There are clear criteria for both diagnoses. The intensity of a tension headache will never be as severe as with migraines or cluster headaches. Tension headache does not knock the patient out of daily activities. You can live with her. The quality of life is deteriorating, but sometimes it does not even require stopping.
With migraine, the intensity of headache without pain medication is higher than with tension headache. Migraines are attacks of pain lasting from 4 hours to three days. If your head hurts for more than three days, then you already need to see a doctor.
Migraine also has several other symptoms. Often, but not always, it can be a one-sided headache, it can be throbbing – as if knocking. It can radiate to the temple, to the eye, and often at the peak of the headache, when the patient either does not have time to drink the drug on time, or does not drink at all, it may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound. They can irritate him up to nausea or vomiting.
Migraine can be exacerbated by physical activity (i.e. with such a headache you can not go shopping with a girlfriend, go to the cinema, gym, swimming pool without drinking painkillers). You can’t confuse a migraine with anything.
In addition, depressive and anxiety disorders go hand in hand with episodic and chronic migraine. The reason for this is the constant pain that a person experiences.
— What can trigger a migraine headache attack?
– The list is big. Foods: chocolate, nuts, yogurt and aged cheeses, as well as alcohol (sparkling wines, red wine, beer), excessive intake of coffee and caffeinated drinks.
Violation of the diet can also act as a provocateur: skipping meals, low-calorie diets. Non-compliance with the drinking regime – insufficient water intake. Changing the sleep pattern in any direction, both “lack of sleep” and “oversleeping” can be a pain provocateur. Bright light, stressful situations, “stuffy” aromas, prolonged static loads, for example, sitting at a computer, menstruation in women, weather changes.
Although not proven, a large number of our patients indicate that they have some kind of weather sensitivity. They know that if he has a headache now, it will probably snow in two hours.
Headache can often occur in hungry people who drink little liquid during the day, move little, and in stressful situations. The head can hurt with high blood pressure from 170/120 mm Hg. Art. and higher. Each person is unique, and the factors that provoke a headache are different for everyone.
– How to find out your trigger?
– Keep a headache diary and pay attention to what triggered the headache. There are two excellent electronic diaries. One was created by colleagues from the University Headache Clinic, and the second was made by my colleague, a neurologist from NMICO FMBA, together with a psychologist. The intensity of the headache, the provoking factors, which patient took the painkiller pill, and the localization of the pain: the whole head or half are entered there.
In general, it is ideal to start keeping a headache diary before the appointment and come to the first visit to the neurologist-cephalologist already with him, so that the doctor already understands the big picture. I am happy when patients come prepared.
– How can you manage a headache without pills?
— There are various methods of non-drug headache relief. As a rule, each patient with a headache chooses the most suitable way for him to relieve a headache. Non-drug methods should be used in the first half hour of a headache.
At the time of the onset of a headache, if it gradually increases, does not immediately hurt ten points out of ten, you can go for a walk, exercise, have lunch on time, drink water.
Non-drug methods certainly work. There is a proven treatment for pain: cognitive behavioral therapy. This is already working with a psychotherapist or psychologist. There is a method of conscious stress management – mindfulness (mindfulness – ed.).
— And if after half an hour the headache has not stopped?
— If the pain grows, intensifies, begins to pulsate, there is definitely no need to wait. There must be a middle ground. It is not worth taking a pill very early, because you do not use your own capabilities, and you do not need to take the drug very late, because the pain medication will work worse or not work at all.
If the pills do not help at all, you need to go to the doctor. But it is also important to understand that drugs that are sold in a pharmacy act on any pain, whether it is pain in the back, in the knee, anywhere. They simply block the production of certain substances, inflammation is removed, and any pain disappears. There is a group of special pain medications that supervise migraine headaches called triptans.