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How to Avoid Headaches

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Author : Dr Deepak Garg

I often describe the tendency for headaches (especially migraines) as “Kaanpatti par pistol”, a gun to the head that never really goes away. I suffer from migraines myself, and have realised that the old saw “Prevention is better than cure” is so applicable here! Other than the headache pain, depending on the type of headache there may be nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light, intolerance of sound as accompanying headache symptoms. While we tend to ignore them most of the time, headaches greatly impact our quality of life.

People often panic with headaches because pop culture is screaming "tumour!" "cancer!" to us. Studies show, however that only 0.08% of headaches in persons under 50 years and 0.28% in those over 50 years of age. In fact only 2% of brain tumours have headache as a symptom.

Here are some of the ways you can prevent headaches, including different types of headaches like migraine headache, cluster headache, tension headache.

1. Have an eye checkup

Uncorrected refractive errors (spectacle number), hidden squints or weakness of eye muscles are common causes of headaches. Do drop in at your nearest Eye Solutions branch to have a detailed eye check up including refraction, eye muscle balance, eye pressure and evaluation of the retina and optic nerve of the eye!

 If you have recurrent headaches, do have a thorough check up and evaluation with your Physician to make sure there is no medical issue like high blood pressure, sinusitis or others. Anxiety and depression can also feature headache symptoms. Issues with the neck region of the spine and dental issues can also cause headache.

2. Keep regular eating habits

Fluctuations in blood sugar which occur on skipping / delaying a meal and then loading up on carb-heavy foods are a major trigger factor. If your work does not allow for set meal times, then do carry a small snack (Options like banana/ dates/ raisins/ nuts/ thepla/ gud chikki to name a few) which you can quickly eat at the correct meal time. You can then eat your regular meal as time allows. Regular food habits greatly reduce headache symptoms and even help reduce stomach discomfort due to acidity

3. Keep regular sleep timings

Lack of sleep and oversleeping can both cause headaches. If you snore or suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) where the body is deprived of adequate oxygen in deep sleep, you may be sleep deprived in terms of quality even if you sleep for a long time. This condition is easily missed. Studies conclude that only about 10% of those suffering from OSA ever seek treatment

If you have difficulty falling asleep you can practice breathing exercises to help you sleep. Switch all digital devices off at least 45 minutes before sleeping, and switch to night/ dark modes in the evening to reduce wakefulness due to blue light emitted by the screen. Avoid caffeine intake after 5 pm as this can cause stimulation effects and can disrupt the sleep cycle.

In certain cases, a psychiatrist is of great help to relieve sleep related complaints.

4. Be aware of your water intake

The body’s demand for water can change depending on weather and type of work done. A good way to track your fluid intake is to check the colour of your urine; it should be pale yellow if your fluid intake is adequate. Several studies have shown that this is a reliable way to track your hydration almost 80-84% of the time. Even mild dehydration where we are not actually feeling thirsty yet can cause headache symptoms.

5. Maintain a headache diary

Certain foods may act as triggers for a headache, and this trigger is unique for each person. Common culprits are chocolate, coffee, tea, colas, pickles and cheese. Each person should be alert to track which food causes effects of headache in their individual case. Certain smells and activities, bright lights, loud noises too can trigger headache. Cluster headaches can even be seasonal. Keeping a track of these factors in relation to your discomfort can help identify your individual triggers.

6. Computer visual hygiene

This is a set of precautions to be followed by computer users. A printout of this information is available with EYE SOLUTIONS.

7. De-Stress

Our body interprets stress as physical danger, and certain chemicals are released to fuel a “fight or flight” response. These interfere with our concentration, cause disturbed sleep, fast heartbeat, feeling of being breathless, sometimes even anxiety and depression and yes, cause headaches too.

Meditation, yoga, kriya, playing a sport and keeping up a hobby are good ways to relieve stress. Persons facing anxiety/depression or sleep disorders should not hesitate in consulting a psychiatrist or counsellor.

8. Protect your eyes from glaring sunlight

A good pair of UV blocking sunglasses will additionally protect your eyes from sun damage.

9. Watch your posture

Sitting hunched over at your desk, keeping a phone pressed between your ear and neck, slouching when sitting, a tendency to tense the neck muscles when stressed can all cause compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the neck leading to headache. Taking frequent breaks every 20-30 minutes and doing stretching activity or just walking around also helps to relieve the muscle tension. Poor posture is a common cause of Tension headache.

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