Medications are only part of the solution when managing headaches and, alone, will be limited in effectiveness. There are many other factors that only you can control. Below are some suggestions of how you can help yourself and help your doctor help you.

  • Unless told otherwise, you should limit the use of any over-the-counter (OTC) medication that you use for headaches. OTC’s can quickly backfire and lead to increased frequency of headaches, even when used only a couple of times per week.
  • You should limit the use of any prescription pain medication, such as opiates (narcotics) or fiorinal/fioricet, for the same reason as above.
  • Getting regular, refreshing sleep is very important. Set a specific bedtime that would allow for 8 to 8 ½ hours of sleep. Do not watch television, listen to the radio, do work, or argue in bed. If your bed partner snores, wear earplugs or sleep in another room. Have the same bedtime on the weekend as you have during the week.
  • Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. Avoid common food triggers like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrites. These are commonly found in snack foods like potato chips, hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats. Decrease your intake of red meat and increase chicken or fish. Drink 6 – 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Get regular exercise. A brisk walk for 30 minutes 3 -4 days per week is enough at the beginning. Improving your heart health and improving your blood flow will have beneficial effects on your headaches.
  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet. Caffeine is one of the worst chemicals for anyone with headaches. Even one cup per day can be enough to increase the frequency and severity of your headaches. Be aware that even decaffeinated coffee and tea have some caffeine in them.
  • Find someone with whom you can talk about your headaches and other stresses or concerns. This could be a religious leader, professional counselor, psychologist, or even just a good friend. It is important to be able to talk openly and honestly about what you are going through.
  • Begin a stress reduction program with meditation, prayer, or biofeedback. Many resources for biofeedback and relaxation are available on the internet.
  • Being involved in your regular activities despite the headaches is necessary. Make every effort to go to work, school, or social activities even if you have a headache. You cannot let your headaches control you. You must control them and not allow them to dictate to you how you will live.
  • Avoid natural cures for your headache unless you discuss them with your doctor first. Many products claiming to cure or treat headaches can actually be detrimental to your headaches.