Pain Management

How to Find the Cause of Your Headaches — and 4 Simple Ways to Cure Them

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When it comes to headaches, there’s no “one size fits all.” Here’s four easy fixes to pinpoint the sneaky cause of your headaches, and the study-proven strategies that promise relief fast!

Pain that’s worse in late winter.

If you’re having more headaches as winter drags on, “blame vitamin D-3 shortfalls,” says endocrinologist Michael Holick, MD. “This nutrient relaxes scalp muscles and pain nerves, but skin can’t make D-3 unless it’s exposed to sunlight.” Luckily, Cornell scientists say 3,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily cuts headache risk by up to 78 percent. Note: Check with a doctor before supplementing.

Pain first thing in the morning.

For folks who wake up sore, the culprit is likely a lack of deep sleep — the type of rest the brain needs to produce pain-taming serotonin, says neurologist June Lee, MD. Thankfully, spending 20 percent more time in deep sleep is as easy as listening to “pink noise” (sounds like rainfall) at night. Northwestern University scientists say the soothing sounds will cut your morning headache risk in half. Tip: Find them for free on YouTube.

Pain that lingers.

Chewing gum or clenching your teeth (33 percent of us do so without realizing it!) can overwork jaw muscles, doubling your headache risk. But research in Pediatric Neurology found that resting your jaw by switching from gum to mints or by massaging your jawline for 30 seconds each hour erases headaches in seven days.

Pain that returns.

Headaches more than 15 days a month? It may be “rebound” pain caused by an inherited gene that makes levels of pain-killing endorphins plunge if you take headache meds more than once weekly. But firmly massaging the back of your neck releases endorphins, say Norwegian scientists, ending rebound headaches for 67 percent of women studied.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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