How to Get Rid of a Headache According to Science

Headaches come in many forms and some, like migraines, are quite disabling. Thus, you might want to know how to get rid of them. What does science say about what to do in these situations? Let's analyze it.
How to Get Rid of a Headache According to Science

Last update: 15 May, 2021

How to get rid of a headache when there’s pain, dizziness, and throbbing discomfort? The kind that feels like being hit with a hammer. Is there a remedy other than resorting to medications? Few conditions are as bothersome as they are disabling. Moreover, this is one of the most common reasons for headaches in the consultations of general practitioners and neurologists.

According to popular belief, eating can cure a headache. It’s true that hunger can be one of the triggers and that, often, factors such as poor diet, daily stress, exhaustion, or an underlying disease are the most common causes.

However, consult your physician before taking paracetamol or ibuprofen. Continue reading to find out what neuroscientists have to say about how to get rid of a headache.

“Headaches were like birds. Starlings. They could be perfectly calm, then a single acorn could drop and send the entire flock to the sky.”

-Erika Swyler-

A woman with a headache.

Tips to get rid of a headache

Anyone can experience a headache. In fact, estimates indicate that two out of three children will experience a headache before the age of 15. Apparently, nearly 90 percent of people will have one at least once in their lives. It’s a common condition and yet continues to harbor a certain stigma and ignorance.

The most common type of headache is the primary one. That is the one that doesn’t come from a specific disease. Migraines and headaches are the most common and a study published in The Lancet points out is that many people still feel misunderstood when they have a headache.

In addition, many people are unable to work and feel discouraged and exhausted, and just want to be left alone in a quiet place. Of course, it can seem like snobbery in the eyes of others. However, science is making more progress in understanding this disorder. This is why there are now more appropriate treatment strategies are available.

Go on to find out what neuroscience has to say about how to get rid of headache pain.

1. Look beyond your headache to get rid of it: what’s really wrong with you?

There’s something you should do when you have a headache. Look beyond the pain itself and analyze yourself and think, instead of reaching for the pills.

A headache combines multiple processes: blood vessels and nerves sending pain signals to the brain, neurotransmitters generating changes in the activity of nerve cells.

  • You must know the cause of your headache in order to get rid of it. Otherwise, the pain may become more common if you only take painkillers to camouflage it.
  • Ask yourself how you feel. Delve deeper into what’s been going on in your life in the last few days. Are you overworked? Are you multitasking? Or are you worried about something? Stress headaches are the most common ones.
  • Evaluate your eating habits. This is because there are inflammatory chemicals in foods such as cheese, wine, sausages, and coffee that also directly activate the trigeminal nerve. It often leads to migraines.
  • Check your health as a mineral or nutrient deficiency can derive in many cases in states of exhaustion and headache. It never hurts to schedule a medical check-up.

Keep in mind that every form of pain, including headaches, is a symptom of an underlying problem you should be aware of.

2. There are natural painkillers in your brain

Indeed, many of these conditions require pharmacological treatment. However, another way to get rid of a headache, or at least reduce its impact, is to activate your natural painkillers.

Neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, dopamine, or serotonin are within your reach. Sometimes, a sensational way to deactivate that discomfort, that suffering, is by favoring its release. How? There’s not one way but several:

  • Go for a walk and let the fresh air embrace, soothe, and relax you.
  • Spend some time with good people who make you laugh.
  • Rest, give yourself some time to do what you like, and set a slower pace for your life.
A tree shaped like a head.

3. How to get rid of a headache by taking care of five things

Dr. Seymour Diamond was president and CEO of the National Headache Foundation and one of the foremost experts on headaches. He wrote More Than Two Aspirin: Hope for Your Headache Problem, a reference in the field. His advice is quite appropriate, so keep it in mind:

  • Try to get up and go to bed at the same time. Be regular in your schedule.
  • Sleep an average of seven to eight hours every night.
  • Learn to manage daily stress.
  • Eat non-inflammatory foods (such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids).
  • Be careful with strong smells and lights.
  • Exercise at least half an hour a day.
  • Reduce your exposure to screens, especially before bed.

In conclusion, evaluate yourself the next time you experience a headache. Ask yourself what may be the cause and don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. Finally, stay well hydrated, as this helps a lot.

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  • Diamond, Seymour (1988) Hope for Your Headache Problem. More Than Two Aspirin. Intl Universities
  • Goadsby PJ. Headache research in 2020: disrupting and improving practice. Lancet Neurol. 2021 Jan;20(1):7-8. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(20)30457-9. PMID: 33340486.