When that tension headache hits you in the middle of your afternoon, you might be tempted to throw back a couple of pain relievers so you can finish crossing items off your never-ending to-do list. Sound familiar? While common over-the-counter pain relievers can help your aching head, there are natural remedies that can be just as effective (and don't share the same scary risks of OTC painkillers).
In a recent survey, 50 percent of those polled who took over-the-counter pain medications weren't worried about side effects (which can include nausea, seizures, stomach pain, vomiting and other symptoms, according to the New York Times). Just under half commented that it is more important to control pain regardless of risk. With so many people reaching for common pain relievers whenever pain strikes with no thought to severe side effects, the argument for more natural remedies becomes even stronger. The next time your head throbs, try one of these methods instead:
According to WebMD, pressing a cold compress against your forehead can help relieve the pain of a migraine. A cold shower can also have a similar effect. If you're using a cold compress, place it on your head for 15 minutes, then take a 15 minute break (or just take a cold 15-minute shower). For tension or sinus headaches, swap a bag of frozen peas for a heating pad or hop into a hot shower to help relieve your symptoms.
If you can fit it into your day, a massage around your neck and shoulders can help get rid of that headache. WebMD also suggests supplying gentle, steady pressure to where the pain is stemming if your masseuse can't fit you in mid-morning. Hold the pressure for seven to 10 seconds, release and repeat.
There may be some truth to the essential oil craze — Everyday Healthwrites that peppermint oil can open up your sinuses, relieve tension and help relax the pain of a headache. Lavender oil can also help. The calming properties help "regulate serotonin levels, which in turn helps to decrease the overall sensation of pain," says
Amy Rothenberg, a naturopathic physician in private practice. Think about adding a few drops of these oils to a hot bath to help sooth your symptoms.
You can also see if a little relaxation will help cure you of your headache pain. Having a less stressful life might help you in the long run, but if you're in a pinch, try meditating instead of reaching for a bottle of pain relievers when a headache strikes. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and imagine yourself in a peaceful, relaxing scene. Keep this scene in your mind while you focus on taking deep breaths and long exhales. The Mayo Clinic suggests meditating like this for 10 minutes.
These solutions might work for the common tension headache, but be sure to track your headache frequency and talk to your doctor if they seem more severe and are occurring more often. Research also suggests that certain foods can trigger headaches, so avoiding food items like chocolate, certain cheeses and citrus fruits can also help prevent headaches. Making slight alterations to your routine and your schedule can help cut down on how many pain relievers you are taking.