Tension headaches are the most commonly experienced in adults and some children and teens, with the pain of the headache felt on both sides of the head. Most occur infrequently and can last between a few minutes to several hours. There are some rare cases where the stress or tension headache has lasted over a period of days, but experiencing these at least 15 days or more every month, is known as chronic tension headaches.
What are the symptoms?
These will vary between individuals but usually the pain does tend to go from less to more severe and vary in between. Some people describe the sensation as starting in their neck with tension in the shoulder and neck region. Others have noted it feels like someone has tied and is tightening a band around the skull. Typically, the pain impacts the whole of the head but often will start in the back of the head or just above the eyebrows. It is very uncomfortable, and the pain is described as pressure, like with some people experiencing some sensitivity to light. Any pain or discomfort, particularly if it happens frequently, is not a satisfactory state to be in and there are ways, which do not involve over the counter medication, in which to ease a tension headache. Alternatively, visit a migraine specialist for your condition to be assessed.
What causes a tension headache?
The exact cause is not known but there are certain triggers such as stress and anxiety, poor posture, lack of physical activity, trauma such as whiplash caused by an accident or long periods in front of a computer screen, that do link to muscle tension as the root cause. Problems in the neck region occur linked to the suboccipital muscles which are a group of muscles responsible for movement between the skull and the vertebrae in the top of the spine. The muscles can become quite tender and sore and tense up due to some of the trigger factors mentioned above.
How to ease tension headaches
Hot and cold treatments
Apply a heat pack to the base of the head for 15-minute intervals or take a hot shower and allow the warm jets of water to focus on the base of the neck. Alternatively, apply an ice pack or heat pad to the head for 5 to 10 minutes (ensuring that these pads are not placed directly on the skin causing burns or blisters so wrapped in a clean dry towel).
Home remedy kit
Take two tennis balls and stuff them into an old sock and tie off the sock to stop the balls rolling out. Then, lie down on the floor and put the tennis balls under the base of the skull. Relax and allow the weight of the head to compress against them. Then slowly and gently rock the head backwards and forwards and from side to side for a few minutes to allow the muscles in the neck to relax.
Drink more water
Chiropractors will recommend hydration when working with causes of pain to the neck and spine. The adult human body is made up of up to 60% water and keeping hydrated helps support a healthy neck and spine, allowing the discs between the bony vertebrae to provide a cushioning effect. Mild dehydration can sometimes trigger a tension headache, so upping the water intake and avoiding caffeine will help.
Tension headaches can become prevalent during times of stress and anxiety at school (exam time, for example) so teens and children may experience this pain. Some have found that using essential oils such as lavender or peppermint may help ease a tension headache. Essential oils should be used sparingly but a few drops on a pillow or using an infuser while relaxing the body, may help and avoid over the counter painkillers. Incorporating more omega-3 rich flaxseed in the diet may also show a decrease in the reoccurrence of headaches as well.
Correct the posture
Gentle manipulation of the neck and spine combined with massage to realign the posture may lead to the best response when easing the headache. A chiropractor will help and advise the best form of holistic treatment including stress management techniques to ensure tension headaches become a thing of the past.
Try out these handy tips that will help decrease the frequency of your tension headaches. You can also book an appointment with a chiropractor today and discuss what treatment plan is best for you.