Headaches are a pain that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis. While some pass by quickly, others can linger, causing people to miss out on social engagements, lag behind at work or just feel downright awful.
A headache is one of the most common complaints that a patient brings into a doctor’s office, according to William Chow, a neurologist based in Los Angeles. We know the obvious remedies ― such as popping an Advil or extra-strength Tylenol ― but what if you don’t want to rely on your medicine cabinet all the time?
HuffPost chatted with experts on some surprising causes of headaches as well as some lesser-known ways to relieve them. Take a look below:
1. Address your nightly teeth grinding
One of the most under-discussed causes of headaches is jaw tension and tooth grinding, said Boryana Nikolova, a dentist based in London. According to Nikolova, “70% of adults grind their teeth,” which usually occurs at night when people don’t realize they’re doing it.
“Tooth grinding places tension on the tiny muscles that control your jaw and these muscles are around the side of your head and around your temples,” Nikolova said, adding that this could lead to headaches, especially in the first few hours after you wake up.
This condition, known in the medial world as bruxism, can be helped by practicing relaxation techniques before bed, as stress may lead to nighttime grinding. If the condition is severe, Nikolova suggested making an appointment with your dentist who can provide you with a specially made mouthguard.
“The appliance acts as a shock absorber for any residual grinding so it does not damage your teeth or wear out the muscles around your head. It is this wear that contributes to morning headaches,” she said.
2. Chug some H2O
Not staying hydrated? A telltale sign may be some pounding in your head. Studies show that drinking more water can help with headaches and migraines.
If you’re feeling head tension coming on and you haven’t refilled your glass in a while, you might want to make that a priority. Experts recommend adult women consume 91 ounces of water from beverages and food, and men should aim for 125 ounces. If you find yourself working out and sweating, you might want to toss in an extra glass or two.
And watch the caffeine, as it’s a diuretic. “For every cup of coffee you drink, you need to drink a few cups of water or you’re dehydrating your body, which causes more headaches in America than people can imagine,” said Sharmila Michael, a pharmacist in Mobile, Alabama.
3. Try a massage
Feeling a little tense these days? That might be contributing to your aching head. “There are limited clinical trials that have shown convincing evidence that massages treat headaches,” said Ayo Moses, a family medicine provider with CareMount Medical in New York.
He noted that in the event a headache is caused by muscle tension, “massage seems to help.”
“The mechanism behind the use of massages in tension headaches is that it increases blood flow to the affected areas, mostly to the neck, back of the head, and shoulders,” Moses said.