The best way to nix a headache: Prevent it from happening. Sticking to a daily routine and ID'ing your particular triggers are key. If you slip up, you may be able to keep a splitter from snowballing by drinking four eight-ounce glasses of H2O or doing some deep breathing for several minutes.
Already in pain? Most docs do not recommend meds for tension headaches. Research shows distraction (watching a video, taking a walk) could work much better. If your ache is more intense, pop some OTC ibuprofen and ask your doc about other treatments.
Despite being so common, headaches remain somewhat of a medical mystery. Many theories (e.g., tense muscles lead to tension pounders) have been debunked; new ideas center around brain chemistry gone wild.
If the hurt is mild to moderate on both sides of your head, you likely have a tension headache. If it's searing and on one side, you may have a more intense kind that could hit your. . .
Your pain center is now online. Though it could feel as if your brain is being stabbed with an ice pick, the organ can't actually feel pain. It's your meninges, a thin sheath around your brain, that's on fire.
Your digestive system has also taken a hit. Whatever you swallow now—including pain pills—could sit undigested in your stomach, prompting nausea or even vomiting.
On the (equally unpleasant) flip side, anything already in your tract might morph into diarrhea.
What is that?! This is how your brain is now processing, well, everything. Normal stimuli become threats. A hug: ouch. Sunlight: intense. Your phone's ringer: loud. A coworker's perfume: unbearable.
Your brain is now too busy fending off those faux attackers to think straight. (Don't worry, there's no permanent damage.)
The pain has prompted an adrenaline surge, which can lead to rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils, and sweating. You're also now awash in cortisol, a stress hormone. Luckily, in the short term, adrenaline and cortisol can have anti-pain properties.
Sources: Andrew Charles, M.D., University of California at Los Angeles; Robert Cowan, M.D., Stanford University; Peter Goadsby, M.D., University of California at San Francisco