A “detoxifying” skin care treatment, a relaxing act of self-love, a pampering practice for your pet—if TikTok is to be believed, the benefits of an Epsom salt bath are practically endless. But, trendy as they are, the chemical compounds are old as hell: The salts are named after the English town of Epsom where they were discovered in the early 17th century, and they were subsequently extracted and studied for their potential medicinal properties.1Though they were once considered a high-society luxury, Epsom salt is now super accessible to the masses—it’s sold in bags or boxes at most drugstores and supermarkets, usually for less than $10, and your mom probably has some under her bathroom sink. And while Epsom salt has been connected to all sorts of wellness benefits, it’s probably most known for its alleged pain-relieving properties. You may have seen a fitness influencer suggest an Epsom salt bath to relieve muscle aches after a tough training day or long run, or perhaps your pregnant friend has been trying an Epsom soak to soothe their sore feet.But just because a wellness practice is trendy doesn’t make it legit. Below, experts explain what you should know about the potential benefits of Epsom salt baths (and Epsom salts in general)—and which claims you should take with, ahem, a grain of salt.What is Epsom salt? | Benefits of Epsom salt baths | Epsom salt for sore muscles | Benefits for skin care | Potential risks | How to make an Epsom salt bathWhat exactly is Epsom salt?Epsom salt is a form of magnesium called magnesium sulfate, Chris D’Adamo, PhD, associate director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, tells SELF. Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body that affect muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and pressure regulation, bone growth, electrolyte function, energy production, and more. The primary source of magnesium for most people is food—leafy greens, fish, legumes, and whole grains are all high in the important mineral.In terms of its medical applications, hospitals sometimes use Epsom salt to treat patients, Dr. D’Adamo says. Doctors may inject intravenous (IV) magnesium sulfate for pain and blood pressure regulation, for example, particularly among pregnant people with preeclampsia, he says.2 And health care practitioners also sometimes use IV and oral magnesium sulfate supplements to treat chronic pain conditions, including migraine, or to address magnesium deficiencies, he adds.3Considering that magnesium in general is extremely important for keeping your body running in top form (and there’s research to suggest that a good proportion of people have lower-than-optimal levels of the mineral) and magnesium sulfate, specifically, is commonly used as a medical treatment, it’s not a stretch to think that an Epsom salt bath may do your body good. Which leads us to…Back to topAre there any proven benefits of Epsom salt baths?First, it’s worth knowing that there are some benefits to taking any bath. It can help your sleep, for one thing, and not just because it’s soothing and de-stressing (which it can be). Warm water also increases your core body temperature, so when you get out of the tub (or shower), your body temperature begins to drop, which signals to your brain that it’s time for rest. (That’s also why sleep experts recommend snoozing in a cool room.) In fact, research suggests that a 10-minute soak in the tub (or warm shower) one to two hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster and feel as if you’ve had a better night’s rest.4But what about the benefits of an Epsom salt bath, specifically? To reap any potential perks—beyond the soothing nature of the warm water—you’d need to be able to get the magnesium into your body in some way, where it can then create physiological changes. That could be either by absorbing the magnesium in the bathwater through your skin or inhaling it from the steam of the hot water, says Dr. D’Adamo.
About eight out of 10 people will have back pain at some point in their lives, according to the National Library of Medicine. The upshot: Doing yoga for back pain can help assuage this unfortunately common medical issue.By moving your body through certain yoga positions, you can promote blood flow, improve mobility, release tension, and build strength in key areas. Best part is, you don’t need a yoga studio membership to reap these benefits—there are tons of yoga moves you can do at home to help, zero equipment required.We tapped Candace Harding, DPT, an integrative physical therapist and registered yoga teacher in Arlington, to learn more about the benefits of yoga for back pain as well as do’s and don’ts for adding yoga poses for back pain to your routine. Harding also shared with SELF 12 awesome yoga moves you can try today for a less achy backside, including yoga for upper back pain and yoga stretches for lower back pain.Keep scrolling for all you need to know!What are some benefits of yoga for back pain?Curious how, exactly, yoga can help relieve lower back pain, as well as pain in the upper body? We’ll explain in a sec, but first, let’s get clear on what causes back aches in the first place.For many people, back pain starts because their core is weak, Harding tells SELF. When your core muscles—which include all the muscles in your torso from the top of your diaphragm down to your pelvic floor—aren’t all firing like they should, your back can take on too much stress as it tries to overcompensate. And that stress can translate into pain.“It’s kind of like an office environment where one coworker isn’t doing their job, and for a while, somebody else is willing to pick up the slack,” Harding tells SELF. “But eventually, they get pissed that their coworker isn’t showing up.”Having tight muscles such as hip flexors (a group of muscles along the front of your upper thigh that flex your hips) can also contribute to back pain. That’s because when your hip flexors get tight—which can happen from sitting too much as well as overuse during certain activities, like running—they pull your low back into a reversal of its natural curvature, explains Harding. And that unnatural positioning can cause aches and pains.Quick distinction: When many people talk about back pain, they’re referring to low back pain, says Harding. Low back pain, she explains, which tends to focus around the lumbar spine, is much more common than upper back pain, the latter of which tends to be more interchangeable and related with neck pain and shoulder pain.Regardless of what type of back pain you have (lower back or upper back), a regular yoga practice can help alleviate it. With yoga, you challenge your muscles through a whole bunch of different positions, like twists and bends. And by moving in a wide variety of ways, you can help keep your muscles active, prevent them from getting weaker, and bring blood flow and nutrition to all the different muscles, joints, and tissues in your body, which can promote healing, says Harding.
This isn’t the first time Applegate has talked candidly about her MS symptoms. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the Dead to Me actor shared what it was like to grapple with the neurological condition on set. She told the publication that she felt off-balance while filming a dance scene, and then later had trouble playing tennis. Eventually, she couldn’t ignore the numbness and tingling she felt in her extremities. Sometimes, she had to use a wheelchair while filming and, at one point, a crew member had to physically hold up her legs so she could stand during certain scenes.These are all “very common” symptoms of MS and balance issues are often a “big problem” for people living with the condition, Dr. Jacobs says. “It can lead to a risk for falls, and it’s something that we are very concerned about.”“MS can hit the systems that help you feel and move,” Amit Sachdev, MD, the director of the division of neuromuscular medicine at Michigan State University, tells SELF. “Balance requires feeling the position of the body and adjusting the position. When both feeling and moving are damaged, balance can suffer.”Because of this, Dr. Jacobs says she will often recommend physical and occupational therapy for her MS patients. “Both can offer a lot in terms of your physical stance,” she explains. As for foot pain, Dr. Jacobs says MS can impact sensory pathways in the body, which can trigger a “misinterpretation of sensations.” That can lead to burning and pins-and-needles sensations or even itchiness.While going barefoot can help temporarily alleviate certain symptoms, it’s not always practical. That’s why Dr. Jacobs says she urges people with MS to get “comfortable shoes with a good foundation,” making sure to avoid things like “very high heels” when possible. Customized orthotics can also be helpful for added support and potential pain relief, Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, MD, the chair of the department of neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells SELF.Outside of wearing supportive footwear, using compression socks, and trying various forms of physical therapy, Dr. Jacobs says practicing yoga is also “tremendously helpful for balance.”Applegate later shared on Twitter that she was “incredibly honored” to receive her star. During her speech, she said the support of her loved ones, especially her daughter, has been vital since her diagnosis. “I am blessed every day that I get to wake up and take you to your school,” she said tearfully. “You are my everything. Thank you for standing beside me through all of this.”Related:
All of that is to say: There are options out there beyond lying down in a dark room (although if the “Silent Night” treatment works for you, great.) It’s best to start a medication plan sooner rather than later since it can take some trial and error to find a treatment that works for you.2. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible.Depending on how your family and friends celebrate, holidays could mean lots of traveling, staying up late, getting up early, or skipping meals (maybe in anticipation of one large smorgasbord later in the day).Unfortunately, these elements can be a recipe for migraine attacks. For example, skipping meals or going long periods of time between eating can be a major trigger for many people with migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Getting too little sleep and getting too much sleep can also trigger migraine attacks, the Mayo Clinic notes.That’s why sticking to your usual routine as much as you can is key. “It is essential to keep a consistent schedule for meals, sleep, and aerobic exercise,” Dr. Zhang says. “It sounds simplistic, but it is very effective.” Regular exercise—not always the easiest thing to get during the frantic holiday season—can also help keep symptoms in check for some people, according to the Mayo Clinic. (No need to make your Turkey Trot a marathon, though: Going a bit too hard with exercise can have the opposite effect and actually trigger episodes for some people.)3. Keep your other triggers in mind too.Migraine triggers are as unique as snowflakes, but there are some common ones to keep on your radar, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include alcohol (especially wine), strong smells (hello, candles), loud sounds, certain foods like aged cheeses and cured meats, and food additives like aspartame and MSG, among so many others. So the next time you leave a festive party that had a delicious charcuterie spread, plenty of boozy drinks, and loud music and laughter, you may be able to anticipate a headache coming on.If you know of a trigger that is a no-go for your migraine, plan for how you can avoid it, if possible. If wine is a problem, for example, BYOB that doesn’t set off your pain to the holiday party, or bring a fun booze-free beverage to share if alcohol just isn’t your thing. The same advice applies to food: The more the merrier, so bring a dish you know you can enjoy and want to share with others. If strong smells can hurt your head, alert your host (if you feel comfortable enough), and ask if they can avoid scented candles or opt for having gatherings in well-ventilated or outdoor spaces.That said, if you’re not entirely sure what your triggers are, you’re not alone. “It’s often hard to pinpoint triggers,” Dr. Zhang says. And they’re not always a surefire way to ward off a migraine headache. “Triggers are usually partial and additive,” she says. So it’s rare that loud sounds on their own will trigger a migraine—but loud sounds after a stressful day at work on too little sleep? Not a great combination.4. Surround yourself with supportive people.Not everybody gets what it’s like to live with migraine—or will respect the steps you have to take to be as pain-free as possible. So try to choose a holiday circle that does get it. “Embrace the people who understand,” Natalia Murinova, MD, the director of the University of Washington Medicine Headache Center, tells SELF.
Opioids are a powerful, pain-relieving class of drugs—but they’re controversial for a reason. Historically, “street opioids” like heroin have been largely responsible for mounting opioid overdose deaths, but recent data show that prescription opioids, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, also play a role in this crisis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a big reason why the agency’s influential prescribing guidelines for these painkillers were rather strict. Those recommendations, originally released in 2016, were just updated to better reflect the need for individualized, compassionate care.The CDC issued new opioid prescribing guidelines for health care providers in early November; specifically, the recommendations detail when opioids should be considered for “appropriate pain treatment, with careful consideration of the benefits and risks.”The agency’s 2016 guidelines, a well-intentioned step in combatting the opioid epidemic, were criticized by many experts. Doctors, insurance companies, and pharmacies sometimes didn’t interpret the previous guidelines correctly. As an “unintended effect,” many people suffered from “untreated and undertreated pain, serious withdrawal symptoms, worsening pain outcomes, psychological distress, overdose, and suicide ideation and behavior,” the CDC notes.Misinterpretations of the 2016 guidelines “often created a barrier for people who could have benefitted from opioid medications,” Jamie Alan, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells SELF. Though “the rationale for stricter guidelines was clear,” she says, it also “created a culture of fear, where physicians were afraid to consider and/or prescribe opioids for patients.”O. Trent Hall, DO, an addiction medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agrees. He tells SELF that the previous guidelines were “widely misunderstood and misapplied,” noting that government regulators and insurance companies were “desperate to turn the tide in the opioid overdose crisis.” The hope, he explains, was that by cutting back on opioid prescriptions, the number of deaths from accidental overdoses would drop. Unfortunately, largely due to the introduction of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, accidental drug overdose deaths increased from 63,000 in 2016 to 108,000 in 2021, Dr. Hall says.The new prescribing guidelines open doors for more personalized pain management.The CDC’s new recommendations will be widely considered by health care providers—but they’re not set in stone policies, laws, or, as the CDC puts it, “inflexible standards of care.”To be clear, opioids should not be a first-line treatment for pain in many cases—but the updated guidance will, hopefully, pave the path toward individualized treatment and better quality of care for people who have exhausted other pain relief options. Specifically, the guidance “emphasizes the importance of person-centered care, and the provider and patient developing a plan that adequately addresses pain,” Sarah Cercone Heavey, PhD, MPH, a clinical assistant professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, tells SELF.When appropriate, the CDC says opioids may be prescribed at the lowest effective dosage as needed; the new guidelines no longer specify prescription dosage or duration limits but still warn against prescribing above a threshold in which the risks may outweigh the benefits—basically, it’s up to health care providers to map out what’s best for their patients.
You’ve probably found yourself in this scenario before: It’s the middle of the night, and you suddenly wake up with a pounding headache. You stumble around trying to find any kind of pill that will squash the pain fast, so you hopefully wake up feeling a bit better. Perhaps you “dry” swallow the medication without water—or you glug it with a drink but lie back down instantly.But that’s a potentially risky thing to do, and a recent TikTok highlighting the possible dangers of taking medicine the wrong way explains one reason why. The video, posted by content creator and video producer Lucie Fink, shared the story of “a friend of a friend of a friend” who popped an over-the-counter pain reliever without water during the night, went back to bed, woke up with it lodged in their throat—and then had to be rushed to the hospital. The reason? The pill had burned a hole in their throat because “it was just sitting there.” “It really stuck with me,” Fink said in the video, which has garnered more than 459,000 views. And well…same.So how (and why) does this happen? To find out why it’s so important to take pills with plenty of water, SELF spoke with a pharmacist for their tips.Here’s why dry swallowing pills can be potentially dangerous.It’s true, what happened to the person in the TikTok story can happen to anyone, Matthew Britt, RPH, a pharmacist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. “Taking oral medications with water is important to ensure that the drug passes through to your stomach and small intestine and does not become lodged in your throat,” Britt says. “This will allow the medication to be absorbed properly in the body and produce the desired effect.”You should also avoid crawling into bed, heading to the couch for a nap, or lying down at all right after taking any pills or tablets. That’s because “certain medications can cause irritation or damage” to the esophagus or your intestines if you don’t take them with a full glass of water and remain upright, sitting or standing, for at least 30 minutes after you swallow the drug, Britt says.In “extreme cases,” Britt explains, dry swallowing pills can sometimes lead to ulcers—which are crater-like sores that form when a layer of skin or tissue is removed—in any part of the digestive system. When this happens in the throat, it is called pill- or drug-induced esophagitis, and a 2014 paper published in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology found that “almost every kind of drug” can cause this type of ulcer, especially doxycycline (a commonly prescribed antibiotic). Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen are also frequent culprits. Why? The residue or coating from the medication also gets stuck in the throat when the pill doesn’t go down, which can have a toxic effect on the delicate mucosal lining of your esophagus. In other words: It’s definitely worth the effort to find and refill that water bottle.Can taking pills the wrong way make them less effective too?Absolutely, Britt says. For example, he says, “some medications work best if taken on an empty stomach, and others are more effective when taken with a snack or meal; certain medications should be taken alone to maximize effectiveness,” which is important to keep in mind if you’re juggling multiple prescriptions.To be on the safe side, you should always have a conversation with your prescribing doctor anytime your medication schedule changes. Then, check in again once you’re picking up your prescription. “Always consult your pharmacist when starting a new medication,” Britt says. “Pharmacists can help you determine a schedule to ensure you are taking all of your medications properly.”Thankfully, this seems like the kind of thing you only have to hear about once—for Fink, that one story seemed to be enough to influence her habits. “Now every time I take a pill in the middle of the night,” she said, “I drink like 12 ounces of water to make sure I’m really getting it down.”Related:
Carson Daly is doing okay after a persistent health issue landed him in the hospital. The Today show co-host recently shared that he’s recovering from a spinal fusion surgery. “I feel full of life, zesty, [and] really good,” Daly, 49, told his fellow co-hosts during a live video call from his home. “I had a really great surgical procedure… I’m healing.”Daly said he had the surgery in late August after years of dealing with ongoing lower back pain and undergoing a previous operation that didn’t help. “It’s basically the exact same thing Tiger Woods had done to his back,” Daly joked. “We’re pretty much the same guy.”Immediately after the surgery, Daly said he was in pain, but, fortunately, his recovery is now going well. “It’s a process,” Daly said. “The first week was tough.” While he can’t yet conquer stairs, Daly said he’s now up and moving around a lot. “I’ve been in the downstairs bedroom, avoiding the stairs. [But] I’m walking a lot right now,” he said. “I’m like Forrest Gump here in Long Island. I walk everywhere.”During a spinal fusion surgery, doctors permanently connect at least two vertebrae in the spine, so that there will no longer be motion between them, per the Mayo Clinic. A bone or bonelike material is placed between the vertebrae, and other materials may be used to hold the vertebrae together, including metal plates, screws, or rods. These help the vertebrae heal as one unit.People get spinal fusion surgeries for a number of reasons, including spinal deformities, herniated disks, or spinal weakness or instability, per the Mayo Clinic. The specific spinal fusion surgery that Daly got is called an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) procedure, per Today.com; it is often used to treat painful conditions, like degenerative disc disease, per the USC Spine Center.The recovery for spinal fusion surgeries is usually intense, as it can take several months for the affected bones in the spine to heal and fuse together. Physical therapy can help people re-learn to safely move around, sit, stand, and walk after a spinal fusion surgery; during the recovery process, people sometimes wear a brace to keep the spine aligned correctly.Daly said he’s using a grabber, a claw-like assistive device that allows people with mobility problems to pick things up. He’s also still unable to dress himself. “The problem is that I want to come back to work, but I can’t put my pants on or tie my shoes,” he said.This isn’t the first time Daly has shared details about his health. As SELF previously reported, he’s talked openly about having anxiety and panic attacks, and has offered encouragement to people who also live with mental health conditions. “This is who I am and I’m proud of it,” he said during a 2018 interview. “I may be a little anxious, but I know I’m gonna be okay.”He added a similar message of hope for others who have lower back pain during his recent check-in on Today. “For anybody who suffers from lower back pain for decades, you don’t know how much pain you’re in until it’s gone,” he said. “I feel optimistic about the future.” Thankfully, Daly said his condition is improving all the time: “I’m getting stronger.”Related:
Whether you habitually “crack” your knuckles or your right knee “pops” every now and then, chances are you’re at least familiar with the sensation of a joint making a ridiculous sound, and then feeling a sweet, instant release of pressure. But what’s actually happening in the body when you crack a joint?First, think about how joints typically move. When you crack one of them, you’re essentially extending the joint beyond its normal range of motion, as SELF previously reported. When this happens, experts believe the gasses inside the fluid that lubricates the joint escape via small bubbles that burst, causing that signature cracking or popping sound.This isn’t the only thing that can produce sounds in your body, though. “Tendons or ligaments gliding over bony surfaces can reproduce a similar type of sound,” Elizabeth Nguyen, MD, a physiatrist board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, tells SELF. People who have arthritis may also hear noises sometimes due to bone-on-bone friction, she adds.Questions about whether joint popping is good or bad for you have prevailed for years. If you constantly crack your fingers, you’ve probably had someone tell you the habit can cause arthritis—a claim that has been proven false, Dr. Nguyen says. Still, it’s easy to wonder if cracking your joints over and over and over again is harmful in any way—especially if you consistently feel the need to release the sensation of pressure in your knuckles, knees, neck, back, or anywhere really.Below, experts break down why all of this feels so dang good—and whether a cycle of cracking your joints is really something to be concerned about.Why does cracking a joint feel so good?Popping or cracking a joint can help relieve tension that builds up due to lack of movement, Drew Schwartz, DC, a chiropractic physician at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. “Your body loves movement,” he explains. “The more it can move, the better it feels.” A muscle imbalance—which occurs when one set of muscles becomes weaker than its opposing side of muscles—could also factor into this tension build-up.“The pop feels good because [the joint] gets movement there, but the tension will come back after the pop. It only feels good for a second,” Schwartz explains, adding, “It can be habit forming because there is some satisfaction to it.”Of course, cracking your joints isn’t a long-term solution if any area of your body is consistently feeling stiff, Schwartz cautions, and it shouldn’t be done if you’re feeling legit pain. Ultimately, if you feel regular pressure, tightness, or pain in a certain area of your body, you may need to be evaluated by a medical professional, Dr. Nguyen says, especially if it starts to interfere with your daily life. “In those situations, there may be an underlying issue,” she adds.So… should I stop cracking my joints?Once you’re in the routine of cracking your joints, it can be difficult to snap out of it. But, to be clear, you’re not necessarily hurting anything. So, as long as you’re not feeling any pain from it, you don’t technically need to stop if you don’t want to, Tamara Huff, MD, FAAOS, an orthopedic surgeon at Vigeo Orthopedics, tells SELF. (If it does start to feel uncomfortable in any way, you should absolutely stop.)
If you experience migraine headaches, you’re probably all too familiar with the unpleasant symptoms: The throbbing head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vision changes can be debilitating and derail your entire day. Migraine isn’t just a severe headache—it’s a neurological disorder that develops as a result of complex changes in the nerves and blood vessels in the brain, resulting in inflammation. While the exact cause of the disorder isn’t fully understood, migraine attacks are often preceded by a person’s unique triggers, which can include hormonal changes, eating specific foods, stress, inadequate sleep, and exposure to certain types of light or strong smells, among so many others.Yet there’s one trigger that is often overlooked: temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which is also known as TMD (but more colloquially referred to as TMJ). According to the Mayo Clinic, TMJ disorders cause pain and discomfort in the temporomandibular joint—the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull—and the muscles that control your jaw. TMJ can also cause restricted movement or “locking” of your jaw. For reasons researchers and orofacial pain specialists are still beginning to understand, the effects of TMJ disorders may also trigger headaches or full-blown migraine attacks.“Physicians aren’t taught very much about how the jaw interacts with other physical symptoms,” Mark Abramson, DDS, a TMJ specialist and adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, tells SELF. But we do know there is a link between the two conditions: People who are diagnosed with migraine are more likely to complain of tenderness and pain in the jaw area, which can also include the entire head, neck, and shoulders. “There is certainly a proportion of people with TMJ disorders who also suffer from migraine,” Belinda A. Savage-Edwards, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist based in Huntsville, Alabama, tells SELF.Why do TMJ disorders trigger migraine attacks in some people?Researchers are still working this out, but have some top theories. “The muscles that are connected to the [temporomandibular] joint can go into spasm with increased use—from talking, chewing, yawning widely, those kinds of things—and [those spasms] can trigger headaches,” says Dr. Savage-Edwards. “But it’s been shown that people with TMJ disorders are actually more prone to migraine headaches than tension headaches.”One potential explanation for the connection, explains Dr. Abramson, is the involvement of the trigeminal nerve, a nerve that is integral to operating the movement of the jaw, but also is targeted by certain migraine medications due to its connection in generating head and facial pain.1Another theory is that migraine attacks may be induced or aggravated by the causes and symptoms of a TMJ disorder, like teeth grinding that can set off the pain associated with chewing. “If someone always gets a headache after eating, the trigger could be the chewing itself,” says Dr. Savage-Edwards. “Or if they tend to wake up with these headaches, and are grinding their teeth and clenching their jaw throughout the night, that can also be a trigger.” Still, we have a lot to learn about the mechanics of how TMJ disorders might be linked to migraine attacks.How can you tell if a TMJ disorder might be causing your migraine symptoms?It might sound obvious, but if you have frequent migraine attacks and you have TMJ symptoms due to a flare, it’s likely the two are connected in some way. Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. If you have migraine and also burning or intense pain in the jaw (especially after eating or chewing), jaw stiffness, a popping or clicking noise in the jaw, an unexplained change in your bite, and/or you know you grind your teeth at night, these are all signs of a TMJ disorder, says Dr. Savage-Edwards.2 Treating it might just improve the migraine situation, although this isn’t always the case.
There’s nothing quite like a throbbing headache to make an already-awful illness feel worse. Listed as one of the many potential symptoms of COVID-19, a headache may seem like the least of your worries when a flu-like illness hits your system. But research shows that for some people a COVID headache tends to linger long after their initial positive test.People living with “post-COVID headaches” are starting to share their experiences on social media, and many of them stress the impact the pain has on their day-to-day lives.“I now get headaches behind my eyes every single day since I had COVID five weeks ago,” one person tweeted. “It’s super fun when 90% of my job is reading and staring at screens.” Another tweeted: “Caved and have booked an [appointment] with my [doctor] to talk about the insane post-covid headaches I’m getting one month post-infection. I rarely get them usually, but now nothing helps!”Anecdotally, a headache seems to be a “very common [COVID] symptom,” especially in those who were likely sick with one of the omicron variants, Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells SELF.Each person’s experience tends to be a bit different, depending on their susceptibility to headaches in general, the severity of their COVID infection, and any medications that were taken to help reduce pain, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen, Amesh A. Adalja, MD, infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF.He notes a headache usually lasts “a couple of days at max” when a person is sick with COVID. So why does the pain persist for weeks, even months, for some people? Here’s what experts know so far.What do post-COVID headaches feel like, and are they common?The pain level tends to vary from person to person. “Viral illnesses are known to incite [migraine attacks] in individuals who have migraine,” Dr. Adalja says. In those who aren’t already susceptible to migraine-level pain, “post-COVID headaches often have more in common with tension or sinus headaches,” Amit Sachdev, MD, the director of the division of neuromuscular medicine at Michigan State University, tells SELF.But it’s not totally clear how often this is happening to people who “recover” from their initial infection. Currently, experts say, headaches tend to be more common during illness, not after. “Most patients with COVID-associated headache will have it in the acute phase,” Dr. Sachdev says, which refers to the period of time when a person feels sick with symptoms. “This is common for many viral illnesses, where pain either in the head or the body is common.”However, one study published in October 2022 offers a bit more insight. Researchers analyzed data from 200 people who contracted COVID-19 and reported having symptoms post-infection, either four weeks from the date they received a positive test or four weeks after they were discharged from the hospital. (Both hospitalized and non-hospitalized people were included.) The researchers discovered that 66.5% of these people said they still had headaches, which was the second most common self-reported symptom next to fatigue. The sample size of the study is small and more research is needed, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that neurological symptoms, headache included, are commonly reported in those diagnosed with long COVID.