Posted by: annmariegamble | November 15, 2009

Headache Cures

A prosaic post for the middle of NaNo. Disclaimer, not in small print in case you are currently in the throes: I am not a doctor. Sometimes headaches can be the sign of something serious.

First pass at a cure:
500 mg of vitamin C
16 oz of water (2 cups or about 250 mL)
8 oz of something with caffeine in it

The theory is that most headaches are caused by dehydration or by coming off a caffeine high. Dehydration can come about by drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages. The body uses lots of water and vitamin C to remove alcohol from the bloodstream, so if you’ve had alcohol you need to replace these two things. Caffeine dilates the blood vessels, thus improving transport of whatever cure you’ve decided to take, but it also is a diuretic, causing you to dump water. I’d take the C whether or not alcohol is involved, but don’t add caffeine if you haven’t been drinking any.

Next stage:
pain pill of choice
saltines
gummi bears

Food first: (1) a lot of people get stomach irritation from pain meds, so don’t take them on an empty stomach. (2) Your brain uses a lot of energy under any circumstances, so give yourself some extra fuel when there’s a problem. Among the over-the-counter pain meds, different people have their favorites. It’s likely that there’s a biological basis for this, so you don’t need to apologize to me for thinking Tylenol is useful (don’t take more than the recommended dose, however—it is closer to toxicity than the others).

You don’t necessarily do yourself any favors by putting off pill popping. Ibuprofen works by physically blocking the site on the nerve where the pain neurotransmitter would land and transmit its signal, so you have to wait for the transmitters to flow past and be replaced by ibuprofen to feel the effect. Other pain relievers bind to other sites and send a counteracting signal.

Stage after that:
take a nap
go to the doctor

When I had migraine-like headaches—lights and noise set me off—the doc gave me samples of a migraine drug and muscle relaxants. She said, we can do more tests, but if these work, it’s a migraine, and if those work, it’s muscular. Fortunately, still muscular, which can also be addressed with massage, not just pills!

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