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Modify your behavior. You've probably been around the medical scene long enough to know that plenty of ailments are caused by patient behavior, and headaches are no exception. Just a few of the lifestyle adjustments that might reduce headaches include daily exercise and eating three meals per day.
Get more sleep. It may seem like "sleep" has become the panacea for the modern age, but it really can prevent headaches, according to the Peachtree Headache Center. You're probably thinking "as if," but it's also worthwhile to note that too much sleep can also trigger a headache.
Opt for treatment that doesn't involve drugs. Just like the rest of the population, nurses have good cause to avoid taking drugs for headaches. While most pregnant women can safely take acetaminophen for an occasional headache, according to the Mayo Clinic, other pain relievers are to be avoided. Some people with substance abuse disorder also may need to avoid taking medications.
In those instances, herbal remedies might offer some relief, according to registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist Brenda Baker. She sees lots of nursing student related headaches as an assistant professor at Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing; she also knows the drawbacks of prescribing medication for those with substance abuse disorder through her work with incarcerated women as research and program director for Motherhood Beyond Bars. "A lot of nurses are using aromatherapy to manage headaches," she noted. "Aromatherapy includes essential oils applied to temples and wrists and diffusers. I also see a lot more use of massage and herbal teas than in the past when nurses turned to caffeine."
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When prescription or OTC medicines are not a good choice, you may also want to consider biofeedback, according to Mayo. "With this mind-body technique, you learn to control certain bodily functions — such as muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure — to prevent headaches or reduce headache pain," it said. "If you'd like to try biofeedback to treat headaches during pregnancy, ask your health care provider for a referral to a biofeedback therapist."
Consider holistic solutions. Katy, Texas-based Bachelor's Degree of Science and Nursing and RN Jennifer Marcenelle is a holistic nurse who says 30 years in the medical field have made her familiar with the nurse-grade headache. "Headaches often occur when our mental energies are unable to flow naturally down through our body to our feet to be released," noted Marcenelle, a certified gemstone and diamond therapy practitioner who founded and owns Burn Bright Today. "One thing that helped me when I had headaches from working those long nursing shifts was gemstone therapy. I wore a combination necklace of agate/citrine, which is believed to help ground and release mental energy."
Even if holistic solutions aren't your thing, Marcenelle urged nurses to acknowledge the stressful demands of the job before headaches expand into something more serious. "We are routinely exposed to difficult and traumatic situations," she said. "Over time, negative experiences can become cumulative, overpowering our coping mechanisms. It's not shocking that nurses are highly susceptible to mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. And if this fatigue doesn't go away with proper rest and attention, it can easily transform into burnout."