I"ve Got a Headache THIS Big...

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If you're a headache sufferer, you know that there are times when it's virtually impossible to look, feel, think, and live your best. Debilitating headaches can cripple your personal as well as professional life, often resulting in postponing activities, deadlines, and daily tasks for hours or even days.

My 3Rs are great for identifying solutions to the headache problem. Even if just one technique works for you, it's a gift that can help put your wellness back on track.

RECOGNIZE what's fueling your headaches.
The single most effective step you can take toward relieving frequent headaches is to understand what causes them. A great way to identify causes is to keep a headache journal. In your journal, start looking for patterns. When do headaches most often affect your life? Are they seasonal and predictable, or are they random? Could they related to a food, such as wine, chocolate, or cheese? Do they become worse before a stormy day? Are they hormone-related? Do they originate from a sinus condition, grinding teeth, poor posture, or eye strain? Most of all, are they stress-related?

REFRAME your thoughts and actions.
Are you content to let headaches take over your life? Of course not. You have the power to seize control. It all starts with a change of attitude. Don't focus on how much headache pain limits you. Instead, think about the many different options you have to fight off pain.

Modalities. Have you considered acupuncture, acupressure, massage, guided meditation, or other mind-body techniques? These drug-free, holistic methods are time-tested and effective at controling or even preventing headaches for many patients.

Action steps. If your journal helped you identify what sets your head screaming, you may be able to eliminate that trigger directly. But even headaches caused by unknown triggers, or the biological or environmental ones you can't avoid, may benefit from these approaches.

  • Wear earplugs to block out excessive noise.

  • Get plenty of exercise and sleep, preferably at the same time each day.

  • Change your body position at work often during the day.

  • Confront a stressful situation head on by speaking up for your needs.

  • Avoid common trigger foods such as chocolate, cheese, caffeine, and alcohol.

  • Stay well hydrated.

  • See your doctor if your headache is a result of a fall or trauma.

  • See your dentist if you wake up with jaw pain.

Remedies to try. Although it's possible your headaches are so severe that you must take prescription medication at the first sign of impending pain, my goal is for you to take as little medication as possible, as infrequently as possible. Have a few alternatives on hand so you're not tempted to reach for the pills unless absolutely necessary.

  • An ice pack applied to the pain point. This simple trick may be enough to relieve your pain. Frozen peas, anyone?

  • Acupressure-to-go. With one finger or the eraser on a pencil, massage the area between and slightly above the crease between the first and second toe whenever you feel a headache coming on.

  • Herbal and nutritional supplements. Not only can they relieve headaches, but some supplements can even prevent them. Known anti-headache supplements include feverfew, butterbur (although be aware of possible side effects), magnesium, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), willowbark extract, and certain topical oils, to name a few.

RECLAIM the health you deserve.
While headaches may be a reality in your life, be on the lookout for victim thinking, which blames someone or something else for your condition. This does nothing to solve the problem--and isn't a solution what you really want?

The alternative is so much nicer: Take responsibility. Commit to finding out what your particular discomfort responds to, and fight back by trying different options for preventing and relieving headaches in your life.
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