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The different types of headache call for different prevention measures. You can reduce the frequency of most types of headaches by making lifestyle changes. Specific recommendations are suggested to limit the number or intensity of each type of headache.

Exercise can help control stress.

Poor posture contributes to tension headaches. Do not slouch. Hold the phone, rather than cradling it on your shoulder, or use a headset. Consider seeing a physical or occupational therapist for posture tips more specific to your individual situation.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques. The counselor may be able to help you identify events that trigger the headaches and work toward resolution.

Maintaining regular sleep routines will help you fall asleep. Sleep helps decrease tension and irritability.

Regular breaks help prevent your muscles from tightening up and can decrease stress.

Identifying what triggers migraines and what relieves them will help your doctor and you develop a plan to manage your migraines.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques.

Exercise helps control stress. Regular exercise can decrease the number and intensity of migraine headaches.

Some foods bring on migraines. Avoid foods that trigger your migraine headaches. These may include:

  • Chocolate
  • Any foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate), tyramine, or nitrates
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Aspartame

Birth control pills and vasodilator drugs can precipitate a migraine attack. Avoid these drugs if you know that they can trigger migraine.

If low blood sugar precedes your migraines, eating small amounts of food more frequently may help prevent your blood sugar from dropping.

Sleeping and waking at regular times may help prevent headaches.

Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger a headache.

Stress can contribute to a headache. A mental health professional can work with you to develop stress management skills and learn relaxation techniques.

Tobacco use has been associated with cluster headaches.

Allergic reactions increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages, which can lead to sinusitis.

Medical management of allergies and upper respiratory infections helps prevent sinusitis. If you are prone to sinus problems, ask your doctor about using a decongestant before air travel. A decongestant will help keep nasal passages open.

Hand washing helps prevent colds and other infections passed from the hand to the nose, mouth, or eyes. Colds increase the amount of secretions in and swelling of the nasal passages, which can lead to sinusitis.

Alcohol can cause swelling of nasal and sinus tissues.

References

Elinoff V, Lynn SJ, Ochiai H, Hallquist M. The efficacy of Kiko exercises on the prevention of migraine headaches: a pilot study. Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(3):459-470.

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools_for_Sufferers/Headache_-_Frequently_Asked_Questions. Accessed September 11, 2008.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/. Updated July 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.

Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.