The Headache Relief Guide

happy young man smiling(BlackDoctor.org) — Migraines, tension headaches, sinus headaches, hormone headaches, cluster headaches, mixed headaches…reading about all the different types of headaches is enough to make your head hurt! According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from some type of headache.

So what are the best, and simplest, ways to get rid of them?

Relaxation

Best for: Soothing stress before a headache starts.

How they work: Simple deep breathing and stretching (neck and shoulder rolls, in particular) relax tense muscles that trigger headaches, says Sheena Aurora, M.D., the director of the Swedish Headache Center, in Seattle. A pulse-point balm with aromatherapeutic ingredients, like peppermint, can help, too.

Remember: Stretching also improves poor posture, another possible cause of headaches.

Cold or Heat Therapy

Best for: Medicine-free relief from minor tension headaches (which, unlike migraines, aren’t debilitating).

How it works: Experts aren’t sure precisely why each therapy is effective, but cold slows blood flow and reduces inflammation, and heat increases blood flow; both of these may ease pain. “Go with your personal preference,” says Jason Rosenberg, M.D., the director of the Johns Hopkins Headache Center at Bayview, in Baltimore. Apply a cold compress (a fabric-wrapped cold pack stays cooler longer) or a heating pad wherever you hurt; limit treatment to 15 minutes at a time.

Remember: You can also alternate the two in five-minute increments. Start with cold, then switch to heat.

Caffeine

Best for: Mild tension headaches.

How it works: “One way that caffeine may help is by blocking brain receptors to adenosine, a neurotransmitter that can cause blood vessels to dilate and create pressure,” says Rosenberg. Consuming caffeine constricts those vessels, relieving pain. Sip a cup of coffee at the first sign of a headache.

Remember: This method is effective only if you typically consume less than 150 milligrams of caffeine a day. (That’s about one cup of coffee.) If you usually drink more, your blood vessels won’t be as responsive.

Peppermint Tea

Best for: Those whose headaches are accompanied by an upset stomach.

How it works: “There’s evidence that peppermint may reduce spasms in the gastrointestinal tract, which can relieve headache symptoms,” says Audrey L. Halpern, M.D., the director of the Manhattan Center for Headache and Neurology. What’s more, “neurochemical changes in the brain brought on by headaches can also affect the part of the brain that stimulates nausea,” says Halpern. And peppermint has been shown to ease a queasy stomach.

Remember: If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedy or supplement, including peppermint.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Best for: Headaches that do not respond to other remedies.

How they work: Acetaminophen products, like Tylenol, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), like Aleve and aspirin, decrease inflammation and inhibit chemicals in the brain that produce pain. Experiment to figure out which type works better for you, but use these OTCs only one day a week. Taking them more often than that can cause medication-overuse headaches, says Halpern. To minimize stomach discomfort, take with milk or food.

Remember: For stronger relief, consider a brand that combines an NSAID with caffeine, such as Excedrin. According to the National Headache Foundation, caffeine may help the body absorb the medicine better.

Acupuncture

Best for: Chronic tension headaches.

How it works: Tiny needles are inserted into specific points of the body; this can reduce muscle tension and encourages the release of painkilling endorphins, says Jill Blakeway, a licensed acupuncturist in new york city. Research suggests that, for some people, acupuncture may reduce tension-headache frequency by 50 percent or more.

Remember: Studies show that you may need 10 treatments before you start experiencing relief.

Eye Problem Warning Signs

glasses and contact lense case sWarning signs of an eye problem vary with the specific condition. Some eye conditions occur suddenly, causing dramatic changes. Other types of eye diseases gradually damage the eye, causing slow, nearly imperceptible changes. In such cases, a person might not notice an eye problem until significant damage has occurred.

When it comes to eye health, the best thing you can do is follow the below steps in order to better detect an eye condition in its early stages.

Step 1: How Do Your Eyes Feel?
Evaluate the comfort of the eye’s surface. Eye discomfort or pain might indicate a number of conditions, including an infection, dry eye or a scratch on the surface, according to Medline Plus. Minor discomfort and achiness simply could indicate eye strain and the need for a new eye glass prescription. In contact lens wearers, the pain could indicate a problem with the contacts, such as a tear or improper fit. Discuss eye pain or surface irritation that does not improve with a doctor.

Step 2: How Do Your Eyes Look?
Monitor the eyes’ appearance. If your eyes appear clear and white one day, but the next day seem red and irritated, you might have an eye condition. Infections, corneal ulcers and foreign bodies in the eye can cause redness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Broken blood vessels on the white part of the eye’s surface could cause a bright red patch, known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage. By itself, the hemorrhage might not indicate a problem. However, frequent hemorrhages, particularly in people taking blood thinners, could indicate an eye or overall health problem.

Step 3: Have You Been To The Eye Doctor Lately?

• Have an eye exam once a year and follow-up as needed. This will aid in early detection of eye disease. If you have a family history of eye disease, inform your eye doctor. This will help the doctor monitor for changes.

• If you notice unusual symptoms or if the symptoms fail to improve, contact an eye doctor immediately to prevent damage to vision or overall eye health.

General Warning Signs

Remember that any of the below changes in the appearance of your eyes or vision should be discussed with an eye doctor immediately:

• Unusual trouble adjusting to dark rooms
• Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
• Squinting or blinking due to unusual sensitivity to light or glare
• Change in color of iris
• Red-rimmed, encrusted or swollen lids
• Recurrent pain in or around eyes
• Double vision
• Dark spot at the center of viewing
• Lines and edges appear distorted or wavy
• Excess tearing or “watery eyes”
• Dry eyes with itching or burning
• Seeing spots, ghost-like ../images.

The following may be indications of potentially serious problems that might require emergency medical attention:

• Sudden loss of vision in one eye
• Sudden hazy or blurred vision
• Flashes of light or black spots
• Halos or rainbows around light
• Curtain-like blotting out of vision
• Loss of peripheral (side) vision.

If you notice any signs of potential eye problems, see an eye doctor for a complete eye exam. Even if you have no signs, regular eye exams are recommended—especially for those with some chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Early detection and treatment can be the key to preventing sight loss.