Have I Found My Headache Cure?

If you go back into the archives (2011-2013), you will see many posts where I attempted to solve my headaches. I tried many experiments to reduce the number and frequency of headaches that had bothered me since high school.

Although most of my experiments failed, I did find a few ideas that helped. I eliminated alcohol and high levels of caffeine. Stress was also a factor. I stopped managing my investments and handed over those decisions to Wealthfront. When I was tracking my headaches, I got more headaches. When I stopped, the problem was cut in half. And that is where the story ended until last year.

On the headache episode of Huberman Lab, he mentioned a pilot study that showed a reduction in headaches from high-dose creatine monohydrate. This was the same week I started doing daily shoulder hangs.

30-second shoulder hangs are enough. You can do supported hangs or use your entire weight.

Unlike previous experiments that may have been too short, I kept with this protocol for an entire year now. I didn’t want to post too much on this until I had gone through four seasons. The results have been stunning. I hesitate to declare victory, but the last year has been the most pain-free year since childhood.

  • I did not have a single headache that was high intensity.
  • I did not have a single headache that lasted more than a few hours.
  • I did not have a single headache that woke me up while sleeping and was intense enough to prevent me from returning to sleep. (I used to have 7.5 a month)
  • I had fewer than 5 small headaches the entire year.

I didn’t know if it was the shoulder hangs, the creatine, or both. So a month ago, I reduced my creatine intake from 15 grams to 3 grams a day as a test. After about 10 days, I could start to feel the beginnings of a headache, but they didn’t take root. I have since resumed 15 grams daily.

I think the shoulder hangs help with muscular tension that triggers some headaches, whereas creatine helps “under the hood”. That is my scientific way of saying go listen to the explanation Huberman provided

I would love for others to test this 2-step protocol. I started both at the same time, but you could try each one independently. My guess is you would be able to tell if the creatine is working within 2 weeks. It may take longer on the shoulder hangs to notice improvement.

4 Comments

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  1. This is really interesting, I will give creatine a go . How much impact did dropping levels of caffiene have? I have had headaches since high school , tried lowering caffiene amongst a bunch of other things.

  2. I used to get one or two headaches a month and couldn’t figure out how to prevent or alleviate them. I get them much less frequently now, I think mostly due to an improved diet (very low carb, mostly carnivore works well for me). A couple of observations I had were – my headaches were always coincident with some indigestion/constipation and seemed to much more frequently occur during rainy or gloomy weather (low barometric pressure). Glad you found what works for you. I’ve sporadically been doing some shoulder hangs myself. I should do those more often if for no other reason than to improve my grip strength/stamina.

  3. @Matt – Dropping caffiene helps a lot of people. I recall it helping a little when I went from high levels to moderate. Further restriction either helped initially or had a minor impact.

    The key for testing this is to use a fading strategy.
    https://criticalmas.org/2023/09/eliminate-caffeine-withdrawal-headaches/

    @Notch – I studied barometric pressure for years. I swear I saw a pattern initially, but it wasn’t consistent. I never did find obvious triggers – other than gluten and alcohol.

  4. @MAS I don’t have hard data but it seemed to me that low barometric pressure was at least a contributing factor. The cause of the headaches are probably multifactorial to include diet & stress aspects. I generally avoid gluten but it didn’t seem to be a strong trigger for me. Since going low carb, my tolerance for alcohol has decreased quite a bit. I don’t drink much nowadays but my susceptibility to headaches/hangovers can vary quite a bit (again suggesting that other factors, in addition to the alcohol, are at play).

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