Seven all-natural ways to beat a headache

Self-help tips to relieve tension and feel better

Close-up of a businesswoman suffering from a headache in an office


We all know how painful a headache can be, and if you suffer from them regularly, it's worth finding natural ways to relieve the pain and help prevent them in the first place.

See also: Six simple, common causes of migraines

See also: These foods can all trigger a headache

1. Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine which is claimed to work by influencing the flow of energy, called "qi," along pathways running through the body.

Used to treat headaches for centuries, recent research has proven its effectiveness in helping people with episodic or chronic tension headaches, while a separate review found that acupuncture may prevent migraine headaches as well as or better than medication.

The treatment involves having very fine needles inserted into the skin at specific points on the body. You will feel them going in and being pulled out, but most people find the sensation is only mild and causes little or no pain.

2. Acupressure
Don't like the idea of needles or can't afford the treatment? Try acupressure on yourself at home. There are various points on the face and neck to try, or you may find reflexology helps. (Try placing your finger in the depression between your first and second toes and press firmly for three to five minutes).

You can find free videos on YouTube, or there are lots of good acupressure books available from Amazon.

3. Sports massage
It's the most natural thing in the world to rub the site of pain, so it's little wonder that massage can help a headache.

Research shows that massage can reduce the frequency of headaches. In one study, people with a history of migraines who had a 45-minute weekly massage had fewer headaches than those who didn't receive the treatment.

While rubbing the base of your neck can provide instant relief, a professional sports therapist can release any tight muscles that are causing a problem. Many people have stiff muscles from poor posture or hunching over a desk – you don't have to play sports to see a sports therapist!

4. Aromatherapy
A number of essential oils can help to relieve headaches, including Roman chamomile, clary sage and lavender. When massaged into the body or added to the bath, essential oils are infused into the blood stream where they act as a natural painkiller.

Try adding six to eight drops of essential oil into a hot bath or mix a couple of drops with five millilitres of base oil. Massage this into your scalp, muscles around the forehead, or the temples to relieve a tension headache. If you find it hard to relax or sleep at night, lavender is a good choice – try putting a few drops on your pillow.

5. Go for a walk
There's evidence to suggest that regular exercise can help to reduce the number and severity of headaches in some people.

Exercise helps reduce stress and promote sleep – two of the most-common headache triggers. As well as releasing feel good endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, moderate exercise improves blood flow and can help to relieve muscle tension.

Keep fit outdoors surrounded by greenery – cycle or walk in the park for instance - and it will do wonders for your mental wellbeing too.

6. Yoga
Whether you go to a class at your local gym or follow a DVD at home, yoga is one of the best ways to relieve and help prevent headaches.

Yoga combines stretching, breathing and meditation, and will help you feel more relaxed and also improve your posture – all of which can help to ease the pain of a tension headache.

7. Neck isometrics
Neck pain can easily travel upwards and cause a headache. Isometric exercises (which involve applying force to a resistant object without movement) are a great way to gently work the muscles of the neck. Here are some simple isometric stretches to relive a tension headache.