Do you find yourself rubbing your temples around 2pm with a pain behind your eyes? Do you bring a travel-sized ibuprofen in your bag anywhere you go?
If you often suffer from headaches you aren’t alone – according to the World Health Organization, up to 1 in 20 adults has a headache everyday.
In order to get a better understanding of this all too familiar inconvenience, I spoke with Amy Wolfe, DACM and Founder of Chicago’s Herb and Ohm. Though headaches are common, that doesn’t mean that we should have to live with the lingering (and sometimes, unbearable) pain.
The first step in finding a solution for easing your headache frequency and intensity is identifying the cause. Amy quickly identified five common sources of headaches that she sees on a regular basis: hormones, emotional upset, dehydration, low blood sugar and overuse of eyes.
In women, fluctuating hormone levels are a major cause of headaches. A drop in estrogen levels, whether from birth control pills or commonly at the start of a menstrual cycle, often causes headaches. This is relatively easy to track as you can note if you often get headaches around the same time as your period.
To manage hormonal headaches, make sure you’re as hydrated as possible and if available, lay in a dark room (just like a dramatic Jane Austen character).
Emotional upset often causes headaches not just because of stress but because that often during times of concerns our muscles are really tense, and causes tightness in the head, upper back and shoulders. This can be increased from a sedentary lifestyle or with someone that works with their shoulders slightly slouched while sitting in front of a computer.
To fight headaches caused from stress or emotions, identify the root cause. Meditation may be a good way to get in touch with your senses and try to promote relaxation. Other simple solutions could be going on vacation or finding an enjoyable exercise routine. Acupuncture has also been proven to be extremely effective in minimizing stress headaches.
Overuse of Eyes
Another common cause for those with a long day in front of a computer is the overuse of eyes. It is probably no surprise that sitting in fluorescent office lights staring at a screen isn’t great for our wellbeing.
There are now special lenses that help ease the pain of looking at digital screens all day. Blue light lenses are anti-reflective options that have been proven to limit the blue light from looking at any screen, which not only help to reduce eye strain and headaches but could also improve your sleep quality.
At this point, everyone knows we should avoid dehydration. Bring a huge water bottle with you to work and frequently fill it up; use fruit-infused water to have a little taste and motivate yourself to drink more; or try a hydration challenge with your coworkers.
Especially after a night of drinking, dehydration frequently causes headaches. When drinking wine especially it is important to first, limit your intake, and second, stay hydrated. Wine has a lot of nitrates and sulfates that cause headaches. Wolfe notes that if you are going to drink alcohol, 100% agave tequila is the best choice to avoid miserable hangover headaches the next day. An excuse for tequila shots and margs? Count me in.
Low Blood Sugar
Trying an elimination diet like Whole 30 and then slowly integrating foods in can help you identify if you have any food intolerances or aren’t getting enough of your daily requirements. Often sugar and dairy lead to inflammation and can cause headaches, so avoiding those triggers on a regular basis should help. If headaches are coming from low blood sugar, eating protein every three hours should help, Wolfe says.
In general for any type of headache, if you’re at work or at a place when you want to manage your pain without medication, you can give yourself a scalp massage, or rub acupuncture point large intestine 4 (between your pointer finger and thumb) as both pressure points provide relief. Wolfe also suggests using a small amount of peppermint oil on your temples if you consistently suffer.
With the weather finally getting warmer, we want to be in our best health to take advantage of the sun! Identify the course and practice these techniques so you don’t have to find yourself having to sit inside this summer.