Health Library

Reducing Your Risk of Headache

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.

Tension Headache

Exercise Regularly

Exercise can help control stress.

Improve Your Posture

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.

Learn Stress Management Techniques

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.

Get Plenty of Sleep

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

Take Breaks From Tasks

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

Migraine Headache

Keep a Diary to Help Identify Your Migraine Pattern

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

Learn Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques

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

Exercise Regularly

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

Avoid Foods That Trigger Migraines

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

Avoid Offending Medications

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

Eat Small Meals More Often

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

Do Not Change Your Regular Sleep Pattern on the Weekend or During Vacation

Sleeping and waking at regular times may help prevent headaches.

Cluster Headache

Do Not Drink Alcoholic Beverages

Even a small amount of alcohol can trigger a headache.

Learn Stress Management Techniques

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

Do Not Smoke

Tobacco use has been associated with cluster headaches.

Sinus Headache

Avoid Exposure to Anything that Triggers Allergy or Sinus Symptoms

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

Seek Medical Treatment for Allergies or a Persistent Cold

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.

Wash Your Hands Frequently to Avoid Colds

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.

Avoid Alcoholic Drinks

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%5Ffor%5FSufferers/Headache%5F-%5FFrequently%5FAsked%5FQuestions. 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.