By Alyssa Shaffer
A:The professor says... Pinpoint the type.
How to Treat a HeadacheQ:Your head is pounding and you don't know what to do. The keys to feeling better: knowing what kind you have and figuring out the likely cause. Three experts weigh in on how to get rid of the pain.
How you treat your headache depends on what kind it is, so pay attention to your symptoms. If you have a pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of your head mixed with nausea and/or vomiting, auras (visual changes), sensitivity to light or sound, and/or tingling in your face or hands, you probably have a migraine. Changes in weather, lack of sleep and/or a drop in estrogen right before your period are common triggers. Over-the-counter (OTC) migraine formulas can help (like Excedrin or Advil Migraine), but prescription drugs often work best for severe cases.
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OTC medications can also help other types of headaches, like tension headaches (a dull ache in your forehead, temples or back of the head, which may be caused by stress, fatigue or strained neck muscles) and sinus headaches (dull pain in your cheekbones, forehead or bridge of your nose, which is caused by a sinus infection). Naproxen sodium (like Aleve), which stays in your system longer, so you ultimately need less, can help. If that doesn't work, try aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)-it's a matter of finding what works best for you. Cluster headaches are a severe type, causing intense bouts of pain lasting from 15 minutes to 3 hours, several times per day over days or weeks, and usually require prescription treatment.
With any type of headache, if OTC meds and rest don't make you feel better and you have two or more disabling headaches a month, see your doctor to investigate other treatments.
LEE PETERLIN, DO, assistant professor of neurology and director of Johns Hopkins University Headache ResearchThe neurologist says... Try magnesium.
Many nondrug options work for headaches. Research has shown that more than half of migraine sufferers have low levels of the mineral magnesium, and studies show that taking magnesium supplements-400 to 600 mg a day-can help prevent migraines, especially if you get them right before your period. Vitamin B 2 (riboflavin) may also help. You need to take 400 mg a day for about three months before you see a difference. Coenzyme Q10 is another supplement that can minimize migraine outbreaks (100 to 300 mg a day). Since CoQ10 is an energy booster, take it in the morning. Acupuncture has also been used for decades, and anything that helps you keep stress in check-meditation, walking, yoga-can also ease muscle tightness and other headache triggers.
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The nutritionist says... Watch when and what you eat and drink.
Your diet can have a direct effect on head pain, which can be triggered by processed meats (hot dogs), aged cheeses (blue cheese, feta, Parmesan), olives, pickles, high doses of caffeine (more than two cups of coffee per day), red wine and the artificial sweetener aspartame. To figure out what's problematic, write down what you eat and drink every day. When you get a headache, go back to your journal and look for patterns. Since research shows that magnesium (in nuts, fish, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables) and B 2 (in eggs, chicken, turkey, milk, fortified bread and cereal) can keep migraines away, making sure you have enough in your diet can be helpful. Going long periods without food and beverages can also lead to a headache, so try eating every 3 to 4 hours and sip plenty of water throughout the day.
JOY DUBOST, PHD, RD, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Washington, DC
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Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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