Headaches are frustrating and can interrupt an otherwise great day. With a mix of work, family, friends, traffic, big projects, and stress, life can take a toll and result in a raging headache, usually at the worst possible time. But do you have to lock yourself in a dark room and take painkillers to get it to go away?
Before you reach in the medicine cabinet, try these 6 steps to knock out a headache fast. Be sure to do them all to get the best results.
#1: Drink Water
Sometimes we can get busy throughout our day and forget to keep up our water intake, but dehydration is no joke; and one of the first signs is a headache. Drink at least 16 ounces of water and let your body process it while you go through the next steps.
Your water intake varies depending on age, body size, and activity levels. To figure out how much you need in a day, take your body weight and divide by two. That’s how many ounces of water you need a day with general activity levels. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you would need approximately 80 ounces of water a day. If you are more active, you’ll need more water. Don’t freak out; remember that your food, including all fruits and veggies contain a lot of water so you may not need to drink as much if you’re eating a lot of fresh foods.
#2: Ice or Cold Compress
If you have an ice pack handy, great. If not, grab a hand towel or even a few paper towels, dip in cold water and wring it out. Apply to your neck and forehead for at least 3-5 minutes. If the towel starts to get warm, dip it in cold water again and reapply. While you’re letting the cold compress or ice pack work its magic, move on to the next step.
It may seem obvious and simple, but taking a minute or two to just breathe deeply can calm the nervous system and regulate oxygen levels in the body, diminishing the pain of a headache. We often hold our breath or breathe shallowly without even realizing it.
- Sit or lay down comfortably
- Close your eyes
- Take a deep breath in until your stomach rises as high as it’ll go
- Slowly breathe out and let your stomach fall
- Repeat this for at least 2-3 minutes
Oftentimes headaches are a positional problem; we sit at our computer in a posture that isn’t so great for our spine, or we hold ourselves in a tense position for too long. Whatever the initial cause, some general movement can often alleviate a headache pretty quickly. So even though you may want to just curl up and sleep, getting up and moving your body may have much better results. So if you can, take 5-10 minutes to walk, even if it’s just a leisurely stroll around the office to chat with coworkers, visit the breakroom, walk a lap around the building, or whatever might work for your day. Take a few minutes to just get your body moving, get the blood flow going as it should again, and allow your spine to adjust to its natural position.
Some simple stretching and mobility of the neck and shoulders can greatly reduce any restrictions in blood flow that may be causing your headache.
Lateral Neck Stretch
- Drop your ear to your shoulder
- You should feel a stretch along the side of the neck. To intensify the stretch, be sure your other shoulder is staying low.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side
Chin to Chest
- Tilt your head forward until your chin is as close to your chest as you can get it.
- You should feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
- To intensify the stretch, place your hand on the back of your head and pull down slightly.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds
- Tuck your chin as much as you can (think about creating a double chin effect)
- Most of us keep our chin jutted out in front, exaggerating the curvature of our neck and putting undue stress on the structures there. This chin tuck can help to take that pressure off.
- To intensify it, extend your head back (like you’re looking up), and keep your chin tucked at the same time.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds, repeat 5 times
- You may feel pressure in the neck, but this shouldn’t be painful. If it is, stop immediately.
- Standing in a doorway, place your hands or forearms on either side of the door frame. With your feet outside of the doorway, lean forward until you feel a good stretch in the chest and front of the shoulders.
- You can affect different fibers within the chest and shoulders by lowering or raising your hands/arms at different levels.