Here are some ways you can treat headaches yourself, without medicine:

  • Apply an ice pack to the painful area of your head. Try placing it on your forehead, temples, or the back of your neck.
  • Take a warm bath or shower; take a nap; or take a walk.
  • Take a nap.
  • Take a walk.
  • Ask someone to rub your neck and back, or treat yourself to a massage.
  • Apply gentle, steady rotating pressure to the painful area of your head with your index finger and/or thumb. Maintain pressure for seven to 15 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed.
  • Rest, sit, or lie quietly in a low-lit room. Close your eyes and try to release the tension in your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Stretch and relax the muscles. For patients who have excessive muscle contractions in the neck, physical therapy exercises performed daily are often helpful.

For patients who have excessive muscle contractions in the neck, physical therapy exercises performed daily are often helpful.

How can I help reduce or prevent headaches?

Follow your treatment plan. Avoid taking medicines that have not been ordered by your doctor.

Do not take over-the-counter pain medicines more than twice a week. Taking these products more often than suggested by labeling instructions may make your headaches worse. These types of headaches are called “rebound” headaches or “medication overuse” headaches. When the pain reliever wears off, you may have a withdrawal reaction. This prompts you to take more, which leads to another headache and the need to take more medication. This cycle can result in daily and severe headaches.

Contact your doctor if you don't feel your treatment plan is working effectively.

Reduce emotional stress. Take time to relax and take time away from stressful situations. Learn relaxation skills, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Reduce physical stress. Proper rest and sleep will allow you to deeply relax so you can face the stress of the new day. When sitting for long periods, get up and stretch on a regular basis. Relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders.

Exercise regularly. Get at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week. Exercise reduces stress and can also decrease the number of headaches you have, and how severe the headaches might be. It also increases the levels of beta-endorphins, your body's natural stress reliever. If you already have a headache, exercise can help relieve the pain.

Keep a regular schedule, including:

  • Eating well-balanced meals and snacks at about the same times every day
  • Not skipping meals
  • Getting at least eight hours of sleep per night
  • Taking brief rest periods during the day to relax
  • Avoiding alcohol. Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol, which increases headache pain. Some scientists blame the headaches on impurities in alcohol or on byproducts that are produced as your body processes alcohol.
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can cause headaches and make any headache, especially cluster headaches, worse. Ask your health care provider for information about programs in your community that can help you quit smoking.
  • Talking to a friend, family member, religious professional, or health care professional if you need support for dealing with your problems.