You may be able to prevent headaches by
changing your daily routine. Identify possible causes of your headaches using a
headache diary (What is a PDF document?).
- Eat regularly. Do not skip meals. Choose
nutritious foods. Do not fill up on salty foods or carbonated
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Set a bedtime and time to
get up, and stick to them, even on weekends. This will help your body get used
to a regular sleep time. Avoid oversleeping.
- Physical therapy may
help you strengthen your neck muscles, improve your posture, and increase your
- Exercise regularly. Walking, cycling,
jogging, swimming, or even dancing or gardening are great ways to relieve
stress. If you tend to hold tension in your neck and shoulders, walking may be
especially helpful. The swinging motion of the arms seems to relax those
- Practice a
relaxation exercise once or twice a day for 10 to 20
massage, which can reduce muscle tension, especially in
your neck and shoulder muscles. Muscle tension can cause headaches or make them
- Practice good posture and body mechanics at home
and at work:
- Sit straight in your chair with your lower
back supported. If you sit most of the day, take breaks once an hour to stretch
your neck muscles. There are some specific neck exercises you can do during your
- If you work at a computer, adjust
your monitor so that the top of the screen is at eye level. Use a document
holder to keep the copy at the same level as the screen.
- If you
frequently use the telephone, consider a headset or speakerphone. Do not cradle
the handset between your shoulder and your ear.
- Have frequent dental checkups and yearly eye
Headaches can often be prevented by avoiding things that may
cause, or "trigger," the pain. Although these triggers may be
different for different people, generally avoid:
- Alcohol and caffeine (coffee, tea, or soda
- Sudden caffeine withdrawal.
- Foods, such as very
salty foods or foods that contain the preservative MSG.
- Poor eating
habits, including missing meals, extreme diets, and fasting.
- Changes in usual sleep
patterns, not getting enough sleep, or oversleeping.
- Medicines, such as
heart medicines, blood pressure medicines, and hormones.
- Poor posture and body mechanics.
- Smoking cigarettes or cigars, or
- Glare from sunlight or
- Exposure to strong odors.
- Strain in
the muscles of the jaw from grinding or clenching teeth or chewing
- Herbal remedies, such as ginseng or St. John's wort.
To prevent a child's headache:
- Make sure your child gets enough
- Offer frequent nutritious snacks and beverages during the
day. Do not allow your child to fill up on salty foods or carbonated
- Do not allow your child to skip meals.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
April 17, 2012
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