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Almost all headaches respond to lifestyle changes. Specific recommendations are suggested to limit the number or intensity of each type of headache.

Exercise can help control stress.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here.

Poor posture contributes to tension headaches. Do not slouch. Hold the phone, rather than cradling it on your shoulder, or use a headset. Consider seeing a physical or occupational therapist for posture tips more specific to your individual situation.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques. The counselor may be able to help you identify events that trigger the headaches and work toward resolutions.

For more information on reducing stress, click here.

Maintaining regular sleep routines will help you fall asleep. Sleep helps decrease tension and irritability.

For more information on getting a good night of sleep, click here.

Regular breaks help prevent your muscles from tightening up and can decrease stress.

  • Put an ice pack or heat pack on your head or neck to ease discomfort.
  • Lie in a dark, quiet room.
  • Massage your temples and neck.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.

Identifying what triggers migraines and what relieves them will help your doctor and you develop a plan to manage your migraines.

Overuse of pain medications can make your headaches worse. Avoid excessive use of these medications.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques.

For more information on reducing stress, click here.

Exercise helps control stress. Regular swimming and walking can decrease the number and intensity of migraine headaches. However, exercise can trigger a migraine attack in certain individuals.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here.

Some foods bring on migraines. Avoid foods that trigger your migraine headaches. These may include:

  • Chocolate
  • Any foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), tyramine, or nitrates
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Aspartame

If low blood sugar happens before your migraines, eating small amounts of food more frequently may help prevent your blood sugar from dropping.

Sleeping and waking at regular times may help prevent headaches.

  • Apply cold compresses to painful areas of your head.
  • Lie in a dark, quiet room.
  • Apply gentle pressure to your temples.

Find a doctor who is a headache specialist. Work with your doctor to create a plan to treat and prevent your headaches.

Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger a headache during a cluster period.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques.

For more information on reducing stress, click here.

Tobacco use has been associated with cluster headaches.

For more information on quitting smoking, click here.

Overuse of pain medications can make your headaches worse. Avoid excessive use of these medications.

This can be done by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to keep hydrated
  • Breathing in warm, moist air
  • Using a mist of saline nasal spray up to six times a day
  • Nasal irrigation—ask your doctor how to do this at home

Allergic reactions increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages. This can lead to sinusitis.

Medical management of allergies and upper respiratory infections helps prevent sinusitis. If you are prone to sinus problems, ask your doctor about using a decongestant before air travel. A decongestant will help keep nasal passages open.

Hand washing helps prevent colds and other infections passed from the hand to the nose, mouth, or eyes. Colds increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages, which can lead to sinusitis.

Alcohol can cause swelling of nasal and sinus tissues.

Do not smoke. Also, avoid second-hand smoke and polluted air.

For more information on quitting smoking, click here.

Overuse of pain medications can make your headaches worse. Avoid excessive use of these medications.

Contact your doctor if your headaches do not respond to lifestyle changes and prescribed medications.

References

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools_for_Sufferers/Headache_-_Frequently_Asked_Questions. Accessed November18, 2013.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.

Scher A, Stewart WF, et al. Major life changes before and after the onset of chronic daily headache: a population-based study. Cephalgia. 2008;28(8):868-876.

Last reviewed November 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.