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Headaches 101


How to Prevent Headaches
Want to avoid a headache? Get your schedule straight and take care of your stress.
Want to avoid a headache? Get your schedule straight and take care of your stress.
Russell Monk Photography/Getty Images

A wide range of non-drug-based treatments and therapies can also be used to relieve or prevent headaches.

One of the most straightforward ways of preventing headaches is to avoid the triggers that cause them. Because stress is one of the most commonly reported triggers for migraine headaches, a good first line of defense for migraine sufferers is to reduce it by managing their daily schedules. Physical and mental stress can result from changing up your normal routine, so one way to lower stress levels is to keep your daily schedule of sleeping, exercising or eating meals constant.

­Other triggers might not be so easy to pick out. Certain foods and drinks, weather patterns and hormonal changes are just a few of the physical and environmental factors that can contribute to certain types of headaches. Because it can be difficult to identify the specific culprit in any one case, some sufferers find it worthwhile to keep a detailed log, called a headache diary. In this log, a person carefully records details about each headache he or she experiences and lists all notable conditions and factors surrounding it. By comparing the common factors that recur around most headaches, major triggers can often be identified and then avoided in the future.

Another way to lower stress levels and combat headaches is relaxation training. Here, the patient learns specific techniques that can be used to relax his or her body and mind. The next step from there might be biofeedback treatments, in which specialized equipment allows the patient to learn how to enhance his or her control over certain bodily responses related to stress. For example, the equipment might monitor heart rate, body temperature or tension in certain muscles, allowing the patient to learn what patterns of thoughts or activities can affect and control these responses. Once the patient learns how to attain better control of these stress-related responses, the equipment is no longer needed.

Other less conventional treatments might include herbal therapies or acupressure or acupuncture treatments. An individual seeking these types of alternative therapies should be sure to rely on a specialist with the proper training and credentials.

As doctors, scientists and engineers continue to learn about the brain and nervous system, more effective methods of combating headache will be developed. For example, specialized drug treatments might one day be custom designed to best treat each individual patient, based upon his or her specific condition and bodily makeup. As another example, a technique called deep brain stimulation is already used to treat certain brain disorders by stimulating specific areas of the brain with tiny pulses of electricity. In exploratory experiments, deep brain stimulation has been used to effectively control headaches that were otherwise untreatable.

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