Working as management in the financial industry but currently taking higher-level education in business management and coaching.
I've been suffering from persistent headaches and migraines since I was around 11 years old. They always varied in intensity and how often I'd get them. In this list, I’ll share all the things I used to help with my migraines, and some of the things l changed to try and prevent them.
The last thing on this list is something that has seemingly cured my migraines and headaches, meaning I haven't had one since. I'm not saying it’ll cure you, but one thing I’ve found is that all migraine and headache articles differ because there are so many different causes and triggers. You just have to keep trying these things and find what works for you.
1. Taking Pain Medication
This is the most obvious. The most important thing know is that pain killers aren't a cure, but for those without a solution, they can be a lifesaver. Whilst there's a lot of pain killers on the market, different things work for different people.
I’ve taken pretty much every type of painkiller you can think of. I generally find that taking them at the right time has an impact on effectiveness. For instance, I find that in order for painkillers to be effective, I need to take them as soon as I feel the headache coming on. If I don't catch it in time, almost no painkiller is effective. Here are my experiences with different brands and types.
I find that Codeine isn’t much more effective than Anadin. However, I do find that Solpadine (Co-Codamol) takes the edge off. A lot of people swear by Codeine phosphate so It’s always worth discussing this option with your GP.
Migraleve is another OTC medication that's popular with migraine sufferers. Again, I personally didn’t find it any more effective than Paracetamol, but a lot of people always have Migraleve in their medicine cabinet. You can talk to your local pharmacist to see if this med could be right for you.
Tramadol didn’t feel any more effective than paracetamol either. I actually felt a little groggy the next morning. I find Tramadol a little more overpowering than the other painkillers mention in this article, and it can be habit-forming. But if you’re taking Tramadol enough to be habit-forming, you might have bigger issues.
The best solution I found was a combination of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. There are recommendations stating that you don't take too many ibuprofen on a regular basis, so seek advice from your GP or medical practitioner first.
2. Drinking Water
The reason drinking water is on the list is that dehydration is known to be one of the underlining causes of headaches. There isn’t a lot of research to fully back this up, but there’s more than enough anecdotal evidence from support groups and the migraine communities to get me drinking more water in the day.
In saying that, you’d be surprised at how many people just don’t drink enough water. It’s good for all other aspects of health so it's recommended you drink at least a couple of litres a day (although there isn’t an agreed amount from scientists, most recommendations I’ve seen say to drink a gallon a day).
Here's a quick tip to get me to drink more: I put a bit of lemon or mint in my water (or whatever you need to make it a little less boring).
3. Getting My Blood Pressure Checked
I've had bursts of high blood pressure in recent times, and I found it contributed to migraines. Ultimately, the only way to deal with high blood pressure is to exercise and eat healthier. But let’s be honest, this is just good advice all around.
You can get medication to help manage your blood pressure, but your doctor will most likely advise lifestyle and dietary changes first. Most won't give you blood pressure medication if you are young and healthy (however, there are some exceptions to this so be sure to check with your medical provider).
If you do feel blood pressure is an issue, you can buy a blood pressure monitor online and book an apartment with your GP.
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4. Adjusting My Posture
This is a contributing factor that most people don’t consider, and one that l thought played the biggest part in me getting headaches. My posture while sitting has always been poor. Even as I type this, I’m consciously trying to sit up straight. I've always found that after sitting on an office desk chair or driving in my car for over three hours, I started to get the telltale signs of a headache.
Standing up and stretching helps a lot but ultimately, the solution is to get your chair adjusted by a professional to be specific to your needs. Most workplaces work with companies that come and adjust your chair and work station to suit you specifically. I'd speak to your line manager or health and safety manager about this.
As for your car, if you feel this might be contributing, you can buy car seat back support devices from most major online retailers (including Amazon). Now, I’ve never used one because I don’t drive for longer than 20 minutes a day so I can't recommend any, but I’d imagine they'll be plenty of reviews online for the one that you want.
5. Using an Ice or Heat Pack
I bought a gel face mask that you keep in the fridge so it's nice and cold for when you feel a migraine coming on. I actually found it quite relaxing and helped a little with the pain (cold can restrict the blood vessels and numb the pain).
Thinking back, this might have been a placebo effect, but I suppose if I feel better, that’s enough for me. I also have a gel pack that you can either freeze or heat up in the microwave.
Heating the pack up and putting it on the base of my neck was definitely relaxing. Whether it was a placebo effect is another thing but as long as it makes me feel better I’ll keep doing it.
6. Taking a Bath or Shower
This is something that’s practiced in some sporting circles, and some people swear by it. It involves filling the bath with hot water and putting an ice pack on your head / base of your neck.
The theory is that the hot water draws blood away from your head, and the ice pack helps numb the pain and constrict the blood vessels. I tried this once in a hotel, and I can say it helped immensely (for hangovers too apparently). Coupled with a few Anadin and the relaxing element of the hot water, I went to bed shortly after and slept like a baby. Epsom salts might help with relaxation too.
A hot shower can be soothing if you don't have a bath. I find the hot water on your neck and upper back can relax your muscles and help with tension headaches.
7. Finding Ways to Manage My Stress
For a long time, I thought my migraines were caused by stress since I only seemed to get them at work. I later came to the conclusion that it was my posture—as mentioned above—but don’t underestimate the power of stress to cause headaches.
Stress actually causes tension headaches or worsen a headache that's already there. It’s the act of getting wound up that causes your muscles to tense up or your teeth to grind which in turn gives you those throbbing tension headaches.
But it’s not always easy to eliminate the things around you that are causing you stress. Work and family are often the two biggest causes of stress but are the two things we usually need the most.
Making time for yourself and doing things you enjoy can help lower stress. You can also set aside time in your day to practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga or deep breathing. If you identify something in your life that’s causing you stress, you might want to consider cutting it out (mother-in-law maybe?). But this is always easier said than done.
l even tried a weekly Swedish massage for a while but since my headaches seem to be gone, I don’t go anymore. If you can afford it, then treat yourself.
8. Developing a Healthy Sleep Routine
Another big one for me is the sleep factor. The bottom line is, are you getting enough sleep? I conquered this one a long time ago, and it’s helped me a lot. l get eight hours minimum. l endeavour to get to bed at 10pm every night, and I get up and 6am for work. I achieve this 99% of the time.
And when I get to bed I turn the lights out and put my phone away. Once you get into this routine your sleep patterns will improve greatly. l guarantee it.
9. Getting My Eyesight Checked
So one thing my girlfriend suspected was my eyesight. l was prescribed glasses about 13 years ago but didn’t always wear them—even though l couldn’t see very well. My girlfriend briefly worked at Vision Express when she left school and suggested I get my eyes tested to see if my eyesight was causing the headaches.
l got a test, and the optometrists said that they didn’t think my eyesight was the cause. However, about 12 years later, I decided after much deliberation that l was going to get laser eye surgery. To make a long story short, I haven’t had a headache or migraine since (it’s been 18 months since the surgery).
So I can't say for sure if the eye surgery has really cured my migraines or if it’s a coincidence, but it's something you can always discuss with your GP. Don’t forget: l was given a test to see if my headaches were caused by my poor eyesight, and l was told it wasn't. So I guess you really need to decide for yourself.
You can use combinations of the above to help you with your migraines. A nice bath, some paracetamol, a pint of water and a good night's sleep might be what you need most nights...if you can.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Lisha C on June 20, 2020:
I have been getting them for years. Your 'Posture' point made me think. I have never paid much attention to my posture, maybe I should look into this.
This is a helpful article on managing headaches and migraines. Glad that you no longer suffer.