Top 10 Ways to Avoid or Reduce Headache and Migraine Pain

Headaches and migraines can be debilitating, but there are numerous ways you can reduce their pain or even eliminate them.

Most of these are strategies you can implement without too much trouble and which should pay dividends almost immediately in reduced stress and headache or migraine triggers.

Read on for the top 10 ways to avoid or reduce your headache or migraine pain.

1

Get Plenty of Sleep

woman sleeping

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Too much, too little, or disrupted sleep is a very common trigger of headache and migraine. Experts recommend that you set times to go to bed and get up, and then stick to those times, even on weekends and during vacation.

If you don't feel rested after a night's sleep or you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor about a sleep study to rule out sleep disorders.

2

Eat Well and Often

salad with fruits and vegetables

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When you skip meals, your blood sugar can plummet, potentially triggering or contributing to a headache or migraine. Therefore, you should make sure to eat regularly, even if you're just grabbing a snack (and even if your hectic schedule makes this difficult).

Replacing processed foods with fresh alternatives that reduce inflammation can go a long way in preventing head pain. A short-term elimination diet can also help you identify any dietary triggers, such as fast food, which may contribute to headaches in some people.

3

Don't Get Dehydrated

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To avoid headaches and migraine, you should make sure to stay hydrated. For some people, even mild dehydration can trigger head pain, so drinking lots of fluids is essential. Water is best—some fruit juices, plus the caffeine found in coffee, tea, and many soft drinks, can trigger headaches and migraines.

Proper hydration is essential to good health in general, so you’ll be working on more than just head pain prevention by doing this.

4

Play Trigger Detective

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Try keeping a daily headache and migraine diary, which can help you keep track of foods, activities, and other factors that may lead to head pain. You may encounter a trigger up to 48 hours before a headache or migraine begins, so a carefully kept diary may reveal patterns you just hadn’t spotted before.

Also, even if you can't spot headache or migraine triggers yourself (or there just aren't any obvious ones), that information alone may help your doctor.

5

Research Your Condition

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We’re all ultimately responsible for our own health. Educating yourself on head pain causes, symptoms, and treatments is essential for you to be able to help yourself.

Once you understand your condition, you can better care for yourself, avoid episodes if possible, and lessen the impact of episodes when they can’t be avoided. You can also inform your doctor of any potential triggers, and better understand what your doctor is telling you about your condition and treatment.

6

Take Time for Yourself

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We all need time to ourselves. Set aside a period of time every day that is just for you. Whether you meditate, listen to a relaxation or meditation app, exercise a bit, or just sit quietly doing nothing, use this time to focus on you, how you’re feeling, and what you need. This self-care will pay off, leaving you more relaxed and aware of yourself.

7

Build a Headache-Specific Support System

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Do you ever feel like you’re constantly complaining about your condition around your family and friends (or worse yet, have they mentioned that it's all you ever talk about)? This is an easy cycle to lapse into—if something like constant headache pain is consuming your life, it's difficult to avoid dropping it into every conversation.

You'll be better off finding people who also are afflicted by head pain for advice and mutual support. There are live support groups in some cities and towns, and there are online forums where you can almost always find someone in a similar situation who will understand. You’re not alone.

8

Wear Sunglasses

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Consider sunglasses as an investment, not just a throwaway summer fashion accessory—proper shades can help prevent headaches and migraines.

Optical-grade lenses don’t have the distortion that some inexpensive lenses have, and polarization is essential for cutting glare. Wear them whenever the light is bothersome, even if it's indoors. Add a baseball cap when light comes in above the sunglasses so the cap's bill can block that light. Your eyes (and your head) will thank you.

9

Watch Your Overall Health

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When you have a particular health problem such as headaches or migraines, it’s easy to concentrate on that problem and ignore your overall health. Don’t fall into this trap.

Good overall health is essential when you're struggling with any more specific health problem. If you stay generally healthy, you may even help yourself contain your head pain.

10

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

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So what if there's an undone load of laundry, a few dishes in the sink, or a couple of minor household repairs awaiting your attention? Stop worrying—the house almost certainly won't fall down around you. 

Stress can trigger tension headaches and contribute to migraines, so try your best not to stress over the small stuff. Learn to prioritize and do what you're able to do each day without stressing.

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Article Sources
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  1. The Migraine Trust. Sleep and Migraine.

  2. American Migraine Foundation. What Is Migraine?

  3. American Migraine Foundation. The Timeline of a Migraine Attack.

  4. The Migraine Trust. Common Triggers.