When it comes to headaches, study after study has shown that, unfortunately, women seem to suffer from far more of these types of pains than do men. In fact, after puberty hits, the incidence of migraines in women becomes two or three times that of men.
There are, however, some things you can do to help combat headaches. Here are the top five things to keep in mind.
1. Be Prepared
People in the “know” when it comes to headaches call the things that are likely to set one off triggers, and being aware of your own personal triggers can be the difference between suffering through a headache or nipping it before it even starts.
For women, menstruation is a definite and common trigger (in fact, menstruation associated migraine occurs in up to 60 percent of female migraine sufferers). Besides menstruation, other common triggers include stress, changes in weather, strong scents and even strenuous exercise.
If you haven’t yet figured out what triggers your headaches, try keeping a diary record of when your headaches occur and factors that may coincide with the pain (like what you were eating, what the weather was like, if you had recently exercised, etc.).
Keeping these types of notes can help you determine what may be a trigger for you, and you can change your routine and/or plan accordingly.
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2. Change Your Posture
Believe it or not, strenuous exercise isn’t the only physical thing that can trigger a headache — poor posture can do the trick, too. Slouching can build pressure in your head and neck muscles, causing them to ache. To fix the problem, make some changes to how you sit and stand.
At work or while seated, use a chair with lower-back support and consider investing in a stand for your computer so that you don’t need to look down to type. You should also avoid hunching over.
3. Try Acupuncture
Many people swear in the healing powers of acupuncture for a myriad of ailments, and headaches happen to be high on that list. In fact, expert analysis by the Cochrane review found that acupuncture could even help prevent acute migraines as well as drug treatments, but with fewer adverse side effects.
Another Cochrane review also found that 47 percent of patients suffering from frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches who tried acupuncture reported a decrease in the number of headaches they had per day by at least 50 percent, compared to 16 percent of patients in the control group.
4. Make Changes in Your Diet
While it’s true that overall diet changes have been shown to help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches (chocolate, bananas, meats with nitrates and red wine, for example, may all help trigger headaches), increasing the amount of flaxseed in what you eat may actually help decrease headaches caused by inflammation.
Flaxseed – which comes in oil, ground or whole seed form – contains essential omega-3s that can help combat headache-causing inflammation.
5. Try a Supplement
Many supplements on the market may help prevent a headache before it even starts, although you may need to try a few before deciding which helps with your own headaches. Some common supplements include:
- Butterbur: Studies have found that Butterbur (or Petasites root) is an effective preventative treatment for migraines. In fact, over four months of treatment in one particular study, migraine attack frequency was reduced by 40 percent for patients using it.
- Vitamin (riboflavin): A German trial found the vitamin reduced headache frequency from four per month to two.
- Magnesium: According to some reports, people with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t suffer from them, and studies suggest that a supplement of 200 to 600 mg per day may help reduce the frequency of attacks in people who do have low levels of magnesium.
If you’ve tried everything you can, and simply nothing seems to work to get rid or lower the frequency of your headaches, it may be time to see a doctor. A medical professional can help determine whether it’s time to try out a certain medication that only he or she can prescribe.