Headache Prevention

Things always seem to come to a head during the holidays. The shopping that you put off until the last minute, the family get-togethers that fall on the worst night possible without fail, the fast-approaching deadlines at work and hectic holiday preparations at home—it’s as if the year is trying to get in one last big hurrah before the calendar resets. With all that’s going on, the last thing you want to deal with is a headache or neck pain from all the stress. Fortunately, there are steps you can take for headache prevention and neck pain.

Take a look at these six ways to avoid headaches and neck pain during the holidays:

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Without the proper amount of sleep, your body is not able to recover fully from your busy day. Sleep deprivation can lead to migraines, and people who regularly suffer from migraines can expect to see an increase in episode frequency if they are not careful in their sleep habits. Late-night parties are popular this time of year for some, so if you plan to burn the midnight oil in celebration with friends and family, make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep on nights that you stay in.

Make a Food List, Check It Twice

If nothing else, the holidays are good for tempting you with dietary options you wouldn’t normally indulge in. But did you know that certain foods can trigger headaches? Red wine is thought by some to contribute to headache onset, and excessive caffeine (or lack of caffeine, if you have a habit, i.e. withdrawal) can also increase your chances.

Some migraine sufferers have reported that foods like aged cheese and processed meats trigger episodes, though studies have yet to support these claims. What is certain is that people react differently to specific food items. The best way to avoid food-induced headaches remains keeping a food journal. Simply write down what you’ve eaten and whether you experienced any adverse effects.

Shop, Just Not Till You Drop

If you’ve left the gift buying to the last minute, you may be out of luck on this one. With the time you have left, you can divide the shopping you have yet to accomplish without overdoing it on any particular day. Come up with a shopping schedule for after work and on any days that you have off in the next couple weeks.

With a little planning, you won’t have to overtax your body or mind. If you still experience any headaches or tight neck and shoulder muscles while shopping, pace yourself. A little break now and then at a coffee shop or café won’t delay your shopping too long. In fact, resting might help you finish the shopping faster.

Make Preparations for Travel

If your holiday plans include traveling by plane, train, or automobile, be sure to prepare adequately for your journey beforehand. For those planning to fly or ride the rails, it’s always a good idea to pack all the comfort items you need in your carry-on baggage. Items such as ergonomic neck pillows can help keep you relaxed in the often close quarters of these forms of transportation.

Traveling long distances by car may provide a bit more comfort in the form of personal space and convenience, but driving requires that you endure the stresses of traffic and inclement weather. Take breaks as often as you need to avoid unnecessary strain on your body, and be sure to take time to stretch when you stop to use the bathroom.

Drink in Moderation

With all the mixing and mingling that they bring, the holidays have a way of making that extra glass of wine look extra appealing. However, if you are looking to save yourself from a pounding headache the next morning, you may want to practice some self-restraint. Drinks that contain nourishing fruit or vegetable juice can help keep you hydrated, but it’s always a smart move to drink plenty of water while drinking alcohol.

Avoid Overstimulation

‘Tis the season to be subjected to excessive light and noise! If you know that you’re sensitive to certain types of lighting, such as flashing string lights, you may want to consider limiting your exposure. If it’s noise that gives you a headache, turn down the music, or if you’re attending a gathering where everyone is talking at once, try to find a quiet room to relax in every hour or so.

Certain smells can also cause headaches. For instance, cigarette smoke is known to cause headaches. Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, many of which can trigger nasty side effects unexpectedly. Nicotine is a stimulant and vasoconstrictor, which means that it shrinks the blood vessels. The resulting raised blood pressure coupled with a smoker’s elevated heart rate often lead to headaches, especially during times of stress like the holidays.

Don’t let the stress of the holidays be a pain your neck. Let Dr. Michael Newman and his wonderful staff help you eliminate the headaches of the holiday months so you can start your new year off right.