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8 ways to get rid of a headache

Try one of these drug-free methods to relieve the pain.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 4, 2011 4:39PM

Right in the middle of a recent deadline I developed a real blinder of a headache. Rather than take an aspirin or ibuprofen I drank a glass of water -- and felt better almost immediately.

I won’t say I was actually dehydrated, but I might have been on the way. Or maybe I wasn't. All I know is that water made me feel better. It often does.

It was also, of course, free.

Whether your headache is caused by incipient dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, lousy working conditions or the current economy, try one of these no-drug methods to relieve the pain.

Drink some water. Possibly it's just the act of leaving the situation you're in -- sitting at a computer, sweeping a floor, cold-calling potential customers -- to go get the water that actually helps you. Whatever works.

Brush your hair/massage your scalp. At home, I use a goofy device called The Tingler, which I got years ago at a street fair. Outside the house, I use a big-toothed comb. Either one can make a big difference. Either one can also cause some serious bed head, so straighten up your 'do before you scare some little kid, or your supervisor.

Acupressure. Can't sneak away from the staff meeting for a drink of water or a head rub? Use the tip of your right thumb to probe in between your left thumb and index finger, down low where the thumb joins your hand. Push straight down. You'll know the spot when you find it because it will create a weird, buzzing feeling. It should also start to interrupt your headache. After four or five probes, switch hands.

Take a walk. Removing yourself from physical, mental or emotional stressors can go a long way toward easing a headache. Not always possible, I know. But it might help to step away from what you're doing and walk back and forth for 30 seconds. If you can walk outside for three or four minutes, or down one flight of steps and back up another one, so much the better. And while you're up, why not try…

Some therapeutic stretching. Improperly designed workstations, repetitive motions (whether you're a mechanic or a dental hygienist), sitting for too long at a time, staring for hours at a computer screen -- these and other ergo no-no's can result in a throbbing noggin. Why not do an Internet search for "workplace stretches" now, before you need them? That way you'll be ready to self-medicate when your head begins to pound?


A restorative yoga pose. This probably won't fly if you work in a machine shop, a dentist's office or a room with other people in it. But give it a try if you have any chance for privacy during the day. Here's the pose that I use: Lie on the floor in front of a chair or sofa with your legs up on it -- i.e., calves flat against the seat -- and take slow, deep breaths. Make sure to relax your shoulders and your jaw. There is more than one way to do this, so do a search for "restorative yoga poses" until you find one that works for you.

Laughter. When you've got a headache you may not feel inclined to chortle on your own. Seek out something irresistibly funny and let loose a few guffaws. Laughter reduces stress hormone levels and increases the good stuff like endorphins (nature's ibuprofen!) and antibody-producing cells. Once again, the Internet can help: It's full of funny stuff. Go to your favorite humor site and giggle your way to relief.

Sex. This one's a little tricky since headaches are often associated with a reluctance to indulge. But the hyped-up circulation, deep breathing, and related hormones and endorphins are all potential pain-fighters.

How about it, readers: What are your favorite ways to relieve headaches?

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

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