8 Things To Do If You Feel A Headache Coming On

By Isadora Baum

It's 3 p.m. and you feel a pounder coming on. Ugh.

Unfortunately, a nasty migraine can totally derail your day, taking you away from your work and limiting your performance. And, most of all, it's pretty darn painful.

Plus, migraines and headaches can last a while, so if you're not able to catch it in time or get some immediate relief, you could be stuck rubbing your head for the next couple of hours.

So if you feel like you're on this never ending handstand, look to these expert tips for easing the tension and moving on with your day.

1. Write It Down

If a headache is approaching, grab a pen and paper and take note, so you can be better prepared in the future.

Describe the trigger situation: The sounds and smells around you, the time of day, what you ate earlier, and more, explains Dr. Mark Khorsandi, founder of the Migraine Relief Center.

"One thing you can do to try and prevent headaches before they start is create or begin a migraine diary. Basically, track everything you do and then pinpoint what things are triggering your migraines," he says.

"It could be fluctuations in the weather, it could be something you are eating. When you know the cause of your migraines (or are able to identify patterns) a path to relief could be in sight," he reassures.

Here are some tips to start journaling for better results.

2. Carry Saline Nasal Wash With You

According to yoga expert and author of Pain in the Asana: Cause, Care + Prevention of 8 Common Yoga Injuries, Michael Bridge-Dickson, using a saline wash can help prevent or stop a sinus headache in its tracks.

"I've found the sinus wash to be effective most of the time, and when I don't do it, I suffer for it," he says.

Here's a tip: Mix the saline solution with sea salt, distilled or filtered waster, and baking soda — the baking soda makes the solution smoother and less irritating to the delicate skin inside the nostrils.

And, "follow-up with a light coating of castor oil, which increases circulation and is an antifungal agent. This helps soothe the nostrils after the saline wash," he says.

3. Stretch Your Neck

"For stress and tension headaches, creating traction on the head and neck is useful," says Bridge-Dickson.

"There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is by tying a strap to a door handle, with a loop long enough to reach the floor at a 45º angle. Lying down on the back, bring the loop just below the base of the skull and scoot away from the door until there is a gentle lengthening of the back of the neck. The head may or may not lift off the floor, depending on the strap's angle. It is a minimal height, but it is a good idea to put a soft support under the head to feel more secure," he says.

Another thing that can reduce neck tension is using a rolled towel to support the neck's natural curve, and resting on it, he says.

What's more, stretching in itself will also decrease stress and anxiety, so you'll feel more balanced all around.

4. Use Lavender

8 Things To Do If You Feel A Headache Coming On
credit: Unsplash

Not only does lavender smell great and helps relax the body and mind, but it'll be especially useful when it comes to headaches, says Bridge-Dickson.

"Lavender eye pillows can be very useful, especially if the headache is related to eye strain or light sensitivity," he explains.

And, if you don't want an eye pillow (which you can carry in your bag and use when in need), you can carry lavender essential oil, instead. Just dab a little on your temples or pulse points and sniff.

5. Apply Heat

If you feel a headache coming on, reach for a hot towel, as it'll help alleviate the pressure.

"A trick is to get a hot washcloth or hot pack (though not too hot) and place over the sinus area. If pressure changes from a headache bother you, this is a wonderful trick to ward off a pressure and sinus headache," says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner.

Rotating on and off helps the blood flow come and go, which relieves the tension, she explains.

6. Try Self-Massage

To soothe the area, give yourself some love with a mini massage. This can actually be helpful even before a headache hits, too. (As well as a having a ton of other health perks, too.)

Here's why. "The general remedy I've found that helps stop a tension headache from happening before it starts, or after it's started, is to give a firm pressing massage to the very bottom middle back of the head," says Michael Freeby.

What to do? Give about 20 firm rubs per spot in the lower middle back of the head and work your way up the lower middle back of the head, then go down slightly lower than where you started.

Following this, do the same, but use both hands to simultaneously press both the left and right sides of the back (behind the ears). 20 firm rubs per spot. Then, take some deep breaths, he explains.

7. Drink Water

One of the most common causes of a headache is dehydration, says Jennifer Bowers, PhD, RD.

"When I feel a headache coming on, I drink at least 16 ounces of cold water. Then, I take a brain break by stretching my neck, shoulders, and lower back. Tension builds naturally in those muscles, especially while working on a computer for hours at a stretch," she explains.

So, a good idea is to chug some water if you feel head pain approaching. It'll bring fluids back to the area and help you regain clarity and focus, thereby lessening your chance of a full-blown headache, she explains.

Plus, you can add fruit to water to make it more flavorful, if plain water is a bit too basic.

And, an extra tip? Get outdoors. "Taking a brisk walk in the fresh air is another strategy of mine to nip a headache before it explodes into something ugly," she adds.

8. Try Acupuncture

Turns out, acupuncture can help alleviate headaches, and if done regularly, can reduce the risk of them occurring.

"Acupressure massage is an ancient Eastern Medicine therapy that is still widely used today. Treatment focuses on pressure points on the body to relieve pain," says Rebecca Lee, registered nurse from New York City.

Here's what to do. "Squeeze the webbed skin between your 1st and 2nd fingers. Massage for 5 minutes, then switch hands. You can also do this technique on your feet," she says.

Also, try massaging your temples and the base of the skull (back of the neck), as this can help, too, she adds.