What to do to avoid a headache

What to do to avoid a headache


The world is divided between those who constantly have headaches and those who barely know what that is. Regulars know the process very well. «It is an annoying premonitory feeling. We notice a certain tension, dullness, discomfort, pain. Thirty minutes later, we could use other words: stabbing, hammering, drilling. “Now it’s a headache,” describes Amanda Ellison, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Durham, in the United Kingdom, and a leading researcher in the field of neuroscience. Can we do something in those first stages to try to stop it from getting worse? Popular wisdom says that if we let a headache run wild without taking drugs, it will get worse, because it won’t go away without pills…

Ellison contradicts this widely held belief. And to do this, he explains how most headaches are triggered: if the blood vessels of the cerebrovascular system – the one responsible for providing the brain with the only fuel it can use, glucose – dilate for any reason (stress, visual fatigue, hunger , thirst…), alarms go off in the form of pain. “When you use different parts of the brain, blood flow is diverted there to provide it with what it needs to function,” says the expert, author of ‘Why does my head hurt?’ (Ed. Encourages). For example: if we abuse the visual system a lot, it is diverted towards the occipital regions. Pain occurs, she explains, when the vascular system, which transports that blood to the ‘need’ areas, cannot cope and, to solve it, the vessels dilate so that more blood arrives and faster. And it is precisely this vasodilation that activates the pain, to send a message that does not go unnoticed: “There is a danger here, stop doing what you are doing,” Ellison translates.

Sometimes the pain is so disabling that it forces us to do something (eat, drink, relax, stop an activity that tires us) and, therefore, the extra work of the blood vessels ends, they return to their normal size and the pain ends. bad time

As the expert emphasizes, knowing this process, there are things we can do before resorting to painkillers. Furthermore, scientific studies emphasize that overdoing these drugs can even make us more prone to headaches (in fact, we should limit them to, at most, three doses a week). And how can we save a lot of pills? “The most common remedy for a mild, persistent headache comes from the tap,” says Ellison. Yes, it’s water.

The process is as follows: as we all know, humans are made up of 60% water. But, since it is used for a lot of vital functions, we can become dehydrated if there is not enough of it in our bloodstream. And, since the brain “contains a whopping 1.4 liters”, it usually happens that the kidneys ‘steal’ it from there as well. In this way, “the brain literally shrinks like a dry sponge.” “And this shrinkage is the cause of the most common headache, dehydration headache,” says Ellison. So, before resorting to painkillers, a few good glasses of water can solve the problem. If our brain needs hydration (which is what happens with the headache of hangovers) and that causes us pain, ibuprofen and paracetamol will help us relieve this symptom, but the demand for water (the origin of the problem ) will still be there and, when the drug wears off, it will continue.

  • ‘To cool’

    In most cases, a warm shower or applying cold (not intense) cold to the forehead or temples is very effective.

  • Massage

    The tension in the scalp at the beginning of a headache can be relieved with a thorough massage and stop the pain

  • Have you eaten?

    Our insulin levels – responsible for retaining water in our body – decrease when we go without eating for a long time. And we lose fluid. And, as we have explained, dehydration is one of the most common causes of headaches.

  • Rest for the eyes

    Many headaches are caused by visual fatigue (usually due to screen abuse). Going for a walk with sunglasses helps.

An attempt another way?

We can also try caffeine when we notice an imminent headache. But, be careful, in moderation. This substance narrows the blood vessels around the brain – remember that the pain has been caused by their widening – but its consumption should be moderate. If we are not used to it, a single cup can stop that headache that is just starting. But , if we are already very used to it, it may not do anything for us and may even make it worse for us. So it can be a double-edged sword.

What Ellison does advise is to take caffeine to accompany painkillers if we ultimately cannot do without them to control the headache: “It can facilitate the absorption of paracetamol through the digestive system,” he points out. Likewise, it has been published in scientific journals that Coca-Cola can increase the absorption of ibuprofen to such an extent that it is not necessary to take as much to feel the same pain relief.


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