Tension headaches, also known as stress headaches, are one of the most common types of headaches and countless people experience them.
While the exact cause is unknown, some experts believe these headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions.
Certain factors contribute to this type of headache. Some common triggers are stress, impaired sleep, skipping meals, vision problems, eyestrain, overexertion and muscle strain. Also, females suffer from tension headaches more often than men.
Tension headaches fall under two categories — episodic and chronic. Episodic tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to one week, whereas chronic tension headaches last hours and may be continuous.
A tension headache causes mild to moderate pain, giving the feeling of a tight band around your head. The pain may begin in the back of the head or above the eyebrows and finally impacts the whole head.
Other symptoms include pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head, and tenderness in your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles.
In addition to causing discomfort, headaches can also make you anxious or depressed and affect your relationships, your productivity and the quality of your life.
To prevent tension headaches, it is important to identify the triggers and avoid them.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat and prevent tension headaches.
The first important step to treat or prevent tension headaches is controlling your stress level. In fact, stress is not only a trigger but can also worsen the pain.
There are many ways that you can manage your stress level.
A good scalp massage for a few minutes can also provide significant relief from stress-related headaches. It will help reduce stress, ease muscle soreness and tension, and improve blood circulation.
When massaging, focus on the temporal regions or the occipital area (the back of the head) for the best results.
You can also consider a whole-body massage for relief.
Applying an ice pack to your head can soothe sore muscles and ease a tension headache.
At times, headaches occur due to expanded blood vessels pressing on nerves. In such a situation, applying something cold to the area can constrict those vessels and relieve some of the pressure. This in turn provides relief from the throbbing ache.
Note: Do not put ice directly on your skin, as it can cause frostbite.
Apple cider vinegar works especially well for migraines, but it is also effective for tension headaches. It helps balance the pH levels in the body and aids in detoxification.
Plus, it offers anti-inflammatory benefits that provide relief from a throbbing headache. It is also effective at reducing your stress level.
You can also drink chamomile tea and green tea to help ease headaches.
According to herbalists, footbath with rosemary oil is a powerful home remedy for headaches. The hot water draws blood to your feet, thus easing the pressure in the blood vessels of your head. This in turn eases the throbbing pain.
On the other hand, rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in reducing pain. A 2013 study published in Food Chemistry highlights the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of rosemary.
Peppermint essential oil can calm your nerves and reduce your stress level, making it one of the best remedies for tension headaches.
Topical application helps relax your muscles and nerves as well as promoting blood circulation.
A 2007 study published in American Family Physician found that topical application of peppermint oil may be effective in the treatment of tension headaches.
A type of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you understand the situations that cause you stress, anxiety and tension. Also, this therapy guides you on how to manage stress.
Once stress is controlled, the frequency and severity of tension headaches will automatically be reduced.
In CBT, a mental health professional talks with the patient on a one-to-one basis. Several sessions of 2 to 3 hours may be needed to treat tension headaches.
A 2014 study published in BMC Neurology found CBT to be an efficacious treatment for both migraine and tension-type headaches. The study puts emphasis on conducting further studies to increase the efficacy of behavioral approaches and identify factors predictive of a positive response.
One common cause of tension headaches is muscle tension and tightness. This tightness occurs all over the head and neck, and poor posture is one of the main reasons behind it.
Improving your posture can make all the difference in the world when it comes to tension headaches. Good posture can help keep your muscles from tensing up.
Work hard to improve your posture, both when sitting and standing.
Also, while walking and lying down, make a conscious effort to correct your posture.
Eyestrain is another leading cause of tension headaches as well as pain in the neck, shoulders or back. Those who sit at a desk for long hours in front of a computer have a higher risk of eyestrain as well as headaches.
To prevent eyestrain:
An alternative therapy, acupressure is also effective at treating tension headaches. Acupressure is like acupuncture but without the needles. You simply exert pressures on certain points, which when stimulated can reduce headache pain.
One of the acupressure points to reduce a headache due to stress is the drilling bamboo point.
To find the drilling bamboo points, look for the points where the bridge of your nose meets your eye sockets, just below the eyebrows.
To stimulate these points, apply pressure to both points at the same time using the tips of both of your index fingers. Apply the pressure for at least 1 minute.
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