How to Get Rid of a Headache or Migraine Without Medication
Updated: Jul 26
Headaches and migraines can be a huge pain, especially since they can make performing everyday activities difficult. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that headaches, more than any other pain, are a common reason for missed school and work. Not all migraines or headaches require medical attention, and the good news is that many go away after chiropractic care or home treatment. If you're looking online for how to get rid of a headache without medicine, we'll share how chiropractic care can help.
Identifying the Type of Headache
We are familiar with some form of a headache's throbbing, uncomfortable, and distracting pain. There are several types of headaches, such as:
Tension headaches are extremely common and can cause a dull sensation around the forehead. They can be experienced on one side or the other, and the pain isn't as severe as other headaches. These headaches can range in pain severity from mild to severe.
Causes for tension headaches vary but may include stress, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, poor posture, dehydration, eye strain, dry eyes, fatigue, skipping meals, and insufficient sleep. Treatment depends on the cause. Consider taking care of the basics such as drinking water, getting enough sleep, and consuming a healthy diet to keep tension headaches at bay. If these techniques don't work, you want to discuss other options with your doctor.
Migraines are very painful and can be identified by a throbbing pain, usually located on one side of the head. Nausea, sensitivity to light and sounds, and vomiting are typical symptoms. Migraines can be debilitating and can last for days. There are two types of migraine: those occurring with aura and without. People who experience migraines with auras see flashes of light or other visual disturbances about 30 minutes before the pain sets in.
Doctors don't fully understand what causes migraines. Triggers include hormonal changes, weather changes, stress, and too much alcohol or caffeine. Lifestyle changes are often to help minimize attacks. There are two ways physicians usually go about treating migraines. One is prescribing painkillers, which alleviate or at least reduce pain. Another method is preventive drugs, which are supposed to stave off migraine attacks. Treatment generally depends on how debilitating they are.
The symptom of a cluster headache is when a sharp pain is felt around one of the eyes. The affected eyelid may appear swollen or droop down. The pain can climax in 15 minutes and usually only last a few hours. Other symptoms include a stuffy nose, teary eyes, and a sweaty forehead. These headaches appear in clusters, meaning you may suffer from more than one in a single day and have attacks that recur over days, weeks, or even months.
While health experts don't know the exact cause of cluster headaches, they think the release of serotonin or histamine in the body could be a cause. Smoking, alcohol, heat, changes in altitude, exercise, and nitrates in food are all identified as triggers. Physicians treat frequent bouts of cluster headaches similar to how they treat migraines: with pain-relieving treatments and preventive drugs.
Chronic Daily Headaches
As the name suggests, chronic headaches occur almost daily, at least 15 times per month for three months or longer. The National Headache Foundation explains that chronic daily headaches are unique because they can combine different types, including tension and migraine.
Treatment for chronic headaches should be sparingly used since overuse can cause more headaches. Massages and biofeedback may offer relief from headaches without using drugs or pills.
Some types of headaches shouldn't be ignored and require immediate medical attention. These include sudden a headache accompanied by convulsions, severe headaches with a stiff neck, fever, a headache that happens after a blow to the head or loss of consciousness;
Natural Remedies to Get Rid of a Headache or Migraine
While some medications are targeted at relieving headache symptoms, many are effective; there are many natural treatments for headaches. Here are a handful of effective natural home remedies to get rid of headaches.
Home Remedies for Headache and Migraine Relief
Natural remedies are considered drug-free methods of reducing or eliminating migraine symptoms. These at-home treatments can help prevent the onset of migraine attacks or at least help reduce their duration and severity.
Dehydration is a common reason for headaches. Avoid cola and caffeinated drinks, especially as no-calorie sugars cause headache symptoms. A high amount of sugar is correlated to magnesium levels within your system. Low magnesium can also lead to headaches, and it can cause pain if drank too often. You can buy herbal teas to help with hydration and low magnesium. Hydrating is an excellent first-natural home remedy for headaches.
Taking a Nap
Lack of sleep is a contributor to migraines. A power nap is an effective home remedy that can quickly alleviate short-term migraine pain. Sometimes put pillows on your head, leaving air gaps for a quiet distraction. When sleeping in an unattended room with excessive light, you should use an earplug to protect yourself. However, excessive sleep can sometimes trigger headaches.
Use an Ice or Hot Pack
Ice constricts the blood vessels to reduce pain, thus lowering inflammation. Apply ice packs to your head if you are feeling an onset and the symptoms are mild. Alternately, try hot if you are noticing strained muscle tension. Use hot packs to tighten the neck muscles and relax with a cold bath.
Exercising is a great solution for headache pain as exercises relieve muscle tension. Take a walk and feel the increased circulation throughout your body, and your muscles will relax. Engaging in physical activity reduces your migraine frequency and prevents future migraines.
Monitor Food Triggers
Sometimes food intolerances can be the underlying cause of symptoms such as a headache. If headaches appear after meals, keeping a food log of everything you eat each day may be helpful. This may enable you to identify and avoid foods that trigger regular headaches.
Your migraines can be set off by the food you eat or the conditions surrounding you. Some common food triggers for migraines are red wine, cured meats, and aged cheese. Look into nutritional counseling to identify food triggers that could be factors to headaches and migraines.
Exercise that gets your heart pumping helps to prevent migraines. However, this activity is a safe alternative to its slower movements. Routine yoga sessions may cut the number of migraine attacks you get and make them less intense when they do occur.
Chiropractic Treatments for Headache and Migraine Relief
While there isn't a cure for migraine, there are some treatments to address its symptoms and mitigate side effects, such as lifestyle changes.
Chiropractic treatments are a great form of alternative treatment for headaches and migraines. Chiropractic care consists of manual therapy, including manipulating the spine. Multiple clinical studies have found chiropractic care effective for some types of migraine.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that inserts thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body. Many studies have linked this practice to a reduction in headache symptoms.
Twenty-two studies, including over 4,400 people, found acupuncture as effective as common migraine medications. One study found that acupuncture was safer than anticonvulsant drugs used to treat chronic migraines. If you're looking for a natural method to treat chronic headaches, acupuncture may be a worthwhile choice.
Pressure Point Therapy
A pressure or trigger point massage is one way to release a headache. Pressure points indicate areas in the human body that, when manipulated, promote healing in other parts of the body. These pressure points appear all over the body and help inform clinical massage.
It may seem far-fetched, but massaging one part of the body can indeed release tension in another part of the body. Every part of your body is connected, including those knots in your shoulders! So if you're looking to relieve pain in your head, broaden your focus to other body regions.
A pressure point is sensitive to touch and serves as a hub of tension in the body. When a muscle group is overworked, tension forms "trigger points," which are areas of knotted myofascial muscle tissue.
Pressing on these trigger points can be painful, and you may think the muscle is under strain. But trigger points usually indicate that a nearby muscle group is overloaded. For example, a bad knot in your upper trapezius might make you think your shoulder muscles are strained. Instead, this knot likely indicates overworked or "over-lengthened" neck muscles.
While pressure points are hubs for pain, they are also avenues for potential relief. Massaging these trigger points has a domino effect on the radiating pain you feel in your head and even throughout your arms and fingers.
Craniosacral therapy is seen as a popular natural alternative for headaches and migraines. Also, medications are used once a headache or migraine is already experienced. Craniosacral therapy can work as a preventative measure and treatment option.
Craniosacral therapy works for migraines because of its impact on the brain and the structural alignment of the head. Furthermore, a craniosacral therapy practitioner uses their hands to feel and identify two things that may lead to migraines:
Misalignments in the craniosacral system
Blockages in the craniosacral system
There are three components to this system that you need to be aware of to understand how craniosacral therapy can work for migraines fully:
Membranes: These are membranes in your brain and head
Bones: These are the bones located in your skull, neck, and head
Cerebrospinal fluid: This liquid is found in the brain and spinal cord areas.
According to this study, craniosacral therapy works for migraines by helping remove blockages and misalignments, no matter how small or big.
Migraine doesn't have a cure, and many medications that doctors prescribe for migraine come with side effects. For this reason, individuals opt for alternative or complementary therapies, such as chiropractic. While the symptoms of migraine headaches vary, over 75% of people with the condition experience associated neck pain. Many also report muscle tension, neck stiffness, and problems with jaw function.
Physicians prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants to treat these associated symptoms. However, these treatments don't fully address the problems underlying the symptoms. A chiropractor's expertise includes treating the root cause.
Evidence on the effectiveness and safety of chiropractic treatment for migraine headaches is limited but encouraging. One 2011 review assessed clinical trials on the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation, physical therapy, and massage therapy for migraine headaches. Results suggest each of the therapies can be as effective as conventional preventive medications, such as propranolol (Inderal) and topiramate (Topamax).
Despite research on chiropractic for migraine headaches, treating this condition comprises a substantial percentage of the caseload of practitioners. This 2017 survey questioned 1,869 chiropractors to determine migraine treatment and management prevalence. The results showed that 53% had a high caseload in individuals with migraine headaches.
How does it work?
Chiropractors perform manipulation or spinal adjustments to reduce stress and improve spinal function to treat migraine headaches. Treatment includes soft tissue therapies, which may involve:
trigger point therapies target tense areas within your muscles
myofascial release massage aimed at the membranes that connect and support muscles
massage, which includes kneading of joints and muscles
ACA concluded that chiropractors offer lifestyle management recommendations, such as:
avoiding heavy exercise and encouraging walking and low-impact aerobics
making dietary changes and taking B complex vitamins
improving your posture, such as sitting properly at work
In addition, chiropractic may offer other lifestyle recommendations that can help prevent migraine headaches. Examples include advice about teeth clenching, which stresses the jaw joint and triggers headaches, and encouraging patients to drink a lot of water each day to prevent dehydration, which triggers another headache. A chiropractor's goal when treating migraines is to maximize neuromusculoskeletal health and reduce pain.
Headache & Migraine Relief Without Medication
To see whether chiropractic care is best for your health condition, our team at Natural Care Chiropractic will perform a consultation and refer you for diagnostic imaging. Based on our chiropractic consultation and exam findings, your chiropractic doctor may elect to co-treat your tension headaches and migraines with other healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, massage therapists, or primary care physicians. Schedule an appointment with our team to see how we can help you feel better.