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  • Dr. Donald Littlewood

5 Headache Self Management Tools

Headaches affect a huge number of the population. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40% of people regularly suffer from headaches.

There are different types of headaches too.

Cervicogenic headaches come from the muscles, ligaments & joints of the neck. You can read about those here.

Migraines are headaches that are on one side of the head. They are the ones most commonly seen as throbbing and pulsating. They can cause light and/or sound sensitivity, nausea/vomiting, and all sorts of other symptoms. Again, you can read about them here.

But today I am not here to talk about the different types of headaches.

I am here to give you 5 tools you can use that can significantly reduce the severity of your headaches.


5 Self Management Headache Tools

1. Hydration, hydration, hydration

When I was a camp counsellor, kids would often tell me they had a headache. My response was always: go drink some water.

And it worked.

On average your body needs 2-3L of water a day to maintain its optimal functions. Even more if you are an active person.

There have been studies showing that if you drink 500mL-1000mL of water within a 3 hour window of getting a headache, your symptoms should decrease.

Now just waiting for a headache to come on and chug a litre of water isn't ideal. It's best to drink a lot of water slowly throughout the day.

2. Magnesium supplementation

Magnesium is an incredibly important element. It's involved in muscle contraction, insulin regulation, nerve conduction, and energy production. Just to name a few.

Magnesium is thought to have an effect on headaches because of its ability to dilate the blood vessels.

Now most of the studies out there talk about intravenous magnesium injections to decrease a headache when you're already having one.

Clearly that isn't feasible.

But there is research showing that magnesium supplementation can be prophylactically beneficial. That is - taking a supplement regularly may have preventative effects.

Now it has to be noted that magnesium supplements have been known to cause some GI issues, so if you're a little nervous taking a pill you can try amping up your intake of bananas, avocados, nuts & seeds, and leafy greens.

3. Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep can work wonders on a headache.

The caveat is - most people who suffer from headaches are notoriously bad sleepers.

Falling asleep and staying asleep are way easier said than done. But here is a little strategy that works for me.

Focus on your breathing.

When you are laying in bed focus on taking deep belly breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. When your mind wanders, acknowledge it, then bring it back to your breath.

It's essentially meditation 101.

Try to aim for 7-9 hours a night.

4. Exercise

Cardio has been shown to be really beneficial for headaches. But not ALL cardio.

Running/jogging isn't the best. This is because of the impact on the ground which has can actually worsen a headache.

What has been shown to be beneficial is cycling.

45 minutes of moderate intensity cycling 3 times per week has been shown to drastically decrease headache and migraine symptoms.

That being said, there is a certain subset of the population where exercise actually aggravates headaches.

Moral of the story: listen to your body.

5. Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care has been proven to be very safe & effective for headaches. This is because of the muscular, nervous & joint components involved.

Cervicogenic headaches & migraines (among others) have direct relation to the structures of the neck.

I treat my patients with a combination of adjustments, soft tissue therapy, rehab exercises and acupuncture.

My patients report back with great results, and often say they wish they'd come to see me sooner.

Final Thoughts

Migraines & headaches don't have to be a constant fixture in your life. Listen to your body, get a good night's sleep, drink lots of water, and go see your local chiropractor.

Comment below if you have any questions!

In health,

Dr. Donald Littlewood