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Doc Talk: 5 tips to prevent and treat headaches from Dr. Kita Morgan Williams

Headaches, a condition brought on by everything from sinus congestion to a stressful day, are a common ailment. Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to treat painful headaches. But are there any options for headache sufferers who prefer a natural remedy? 

The answer is yes, according to Dr. Kita Morgan Williams, neurologist and headache specialist with Nashville Medical Group at Baptist Hospital.  

“If you have migraines, or very intense, chronic headaches, consult with your physician about available treatments. But if you have mild headaches from time to time, and you’d prefer not to take medication, you have several options,” she said. 

To ease headache pain, Williams suggests trying these five approaches: 

  • Apply an ice pack: Cold temperatures calm inflammation, so ice is often used to treat achy muscles. In the same way, it can cool a headache. Wrap ice in a cloth or towel and apply to the forehead, temples, or the back of the neck.     
  • Rest or sit quietly in a dark room: Resting and relaxing to music can help treat headaches. Or, try closing your eyes and consciously relax the muscles in your neck, back and shoulders.   
  • Experiment with acupressure: Acupressure, which involves applying pressure to certain points on the body, has its roots in Chinese medicine. Western practitioners note it may reduce muscle tension, improve circulation and stimulate endorphins, results that may relieve pain for headache sufferers. 
  • Avoid foods that may trigger headaches: Most people know that consuming alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can lead to headaches. However, other triggers are less recognizable. Food additives such as nitrates, often found in processed meat, may cause headaches. Another likely trigger is tyramine, a naturally occurring substance found in aged cheese, processed meat and other foods.   
  • Exercise and stretch: Activities such as aerobic exercise and yoga can reduce headache-causing muscle tension. Plus, they may relieve pain by boosting endorphins.  

Most people will have a headache at some point in time, and some people experience frequent headaches. Natural remedies are a great way to treat most headaches, but Williams reminds patients to see a doctor if headaches are frequent or very painful, or if symptoms worsen over time. 

“Headaches can be a symptom of an underlying condition. Listen to your body – you know best if it’s a ‘stress’ or ‘tension’ headache, or if something serious might be going on,” she said.  

For more information about Nashville Medical Group, or to make an appointment with Williams, http://www.nashvillemedicalgroup.com/.

About Saint Thomas Health

Saint Thomas Health is Middle Tennessee’s faith-based, not-for-profit health care system with more than 6,500 associates. Saint Thomas Health is focused on transforming the health care experience and helping people live healthier lives, with special attention to the poor and vulnerable. The regional health system includes – Baptist Hospital, Saint Thomas Hospital and The Hospital for Spinal Surgery in Nashville, Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro and Hickman Community Hospital in Centerville – and a comprehensive network of affiliated joint ventures, medical practices, clinics and rehabilitation facilities. Saint Thomas Health is a member of Ascension Health, a Catholic organization that is the largest not-for-profit health system in the United States. For more information, visit www.sths.com.

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