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June 6, 2006 > 12 Steps to a Headache-Free Year

12 Steps to a Headache-Free Year

National Headache Awareness Week Focuses on Prevention

It's hard to enjoy life or get much done when your head aches. In fact, a recent online survey by the National Headache Foundation shows that nearly 60 percent of respondents miss work or other activities at least once a month due to headaches.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving more than 45 million people in this country who suffer from headaches. The NHF is celebrating National Headache Awareness Week June 4 through June 10 with the theme "12 Steps to a Headache-Free Year" to focus public attention on ways to reduce the number and severity of headaches and to encourage sufferers to see a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

"Pain caused by headaches can be very debilitating," said Dr. Jenny Multani, a neurosurgeon at Washington Hospital.

The most common form of headache is a tension headache with about 78 percent of adults experiencing this type of headache at some point in their lives. The underlying cause of the tension-type headache is likely due to chemical imbalances in the brain that may be related to muscle tightening in the back of the neck and/or scalp. The pain can be mild to moderate in intensity and can feel like something is pressing or tightening on both sides of the head and back of the neck.

Tension-type headaches can be reduced by taking some simple steps to relieve stress and tension.

The 12 Steps to a Headache-Free Year include:

  1. Schedule a realistic day. Avoid the tendency to schedule back-to-back appointments.

  2. Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments.

  3. Make sure your workspace is ergonomically designed from your chair to your computer keyboard. Use a non-glare computer screen and proper lighting.

  4. Do especially unpleasant tasks in the morning so you don't stress about them all day.

  5. Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to make time for unexpected mishaps.

  6. Prepare for the morning the evening before.

  7. Don't rely on memory. Write down appointments and important tasks.

  8. Don't put up with things that don't work. If your toaster, alarm clock, or other gadget is causing you stress, fix it or replace it.

  9. Check your breathing throughout the day, especially before, during and after high-pressure situations. Relax your muscles and take several slow, deep breaths.

  10. Try a yoga technique. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then, with lips puckered, exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 16 or for as long as you can.

  11. Use your weekend for a change of pace. If your workweek is slow, build in action time during the weekend. If your workweek is fast-paced, seek peace and solitude.

  12. Allow yourself time - everyday - for privacy, quiet and introspection.

More Than a Bad Headache
A migraine is another common form of headache, which affects nearly 30 million Americans. More than just a "bad headache," migraines are characterized by throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light. Symptoms and severity vary by individual and attacks can last from four to 72 hours.

Migraines can afflict both men and women, although three times more women experience migraines. Nearly 13 million women in this country suffer from menstrual migraines, which may be triggered by hormones.

Triggers vary for individual migraine sufferers. Something that causes a migraine for some people may relieve it for others. Triggers may include one or more of the following categories: diet, activity, environment, emotions, medications, and hormones.

Like tension headaches, migraines can be effectively managed. With the help of their healthcare providers, people who suffer from migraines can alleviate their symptoms with an appropriate treatment plan that includes both preventive medicines as well as medications that treat the symptoms after the onset of an attack.
Headaches Can Signal Serious Trouble

"For those who suffer frequent or severe headaches, it's important to make sure there isn't an underlying medical problem that may be causing the pain," Multani said. "You need to see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis."

Some signs that a headache is related to a serious disorder include: the headache is accompanied by a loss of consciousness or confusion, the pain becomes progressively more severe or is the worst headache ever experienced, and the individual is using pain relievers every day.

To learn more about headaches, visit

Note: Please place the box of info below in between the Headache article and the Stroke Awareness article on Page 2 if possible.

If you have a question about your health or want to know more about a recent diagnosis, Washington Hospital's Community Health Resource Library is a great resource for finding all kinds of health-related information.  New books are arriving every month in the library, which is open to the public six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Located on the first floor of Washington West (2500 Mowry Avenue), the library issues membership cards to anyone who wants to check out books, DVDs and tapes or download medical articles through the library's subscription service.

You can find a complete listing of our collection on our web site, For more information you can visit the web site or call (510) 494-7030.
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