Almost everyone gets a headache now and then. By far, tension-type headaches are the most common affecting 9 out of 10 adults at some point in their lives.
The good news is you can usually get quick relief from tension headaches and even prevent the pain from coming back once you understand what caused it and take some simple corrective steps.
The Cause of Tension Headaches
Like the name says, tension headaches have their root in tense muscles in your neck, shoulders, upper back, scalp and jaw.
The number one cause of tightness in these muscles is poor posture, typically a forward head and neck. While standing, good posture would have our ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles falling in a direct line with one another.
But when our head and neck juts forward past this neutral posture, a tremendous amount of strain is placed on the muscles of the neck, upper back and shoulders causing them to become overstretched and weak. It also puts strain on the occipital nerve originating in the upper neck, which in turn leads to headaches.
A forward head posture is not the only reason for tense muscles though. Stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation can all lead to the tense muscles that cause headaches.
Holding your head in an unnatural position for long periods of time such as holding a telephone between your ear and shoulder or sleeping in an awkward position can create tension in your neck too.
4 Natural Ways to Ease Tension Headaches
1. Rest with your eyes closed. Tension headaches related to the occipital nerve can increase light sensitivity.
2. Massage tense muscles. A foam massage roller can let you easily massage away pain on your own by working out tension in the muscles of your neck, shoulders and upper back.
3. Apply heat to the back of your neck. A heating pad or even a hot damp towel rolled up can help, but for the deepest penetrating heat nothing beats far infrared heat.
4. Use a natural topical pain cream. Our Rub-On-Relief pain cream is the first we’re aware of to address every kind of pain including nerve pain, muscle pain, and even pain caused from emotional distress. Perfect for neck pain and related tension headaches.
7 Tips for Preventing Tension Headaches
1. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to headaches. Use a natural sleep aid if needed, but get your rest!
2. Exercise regularly. Exercise can reduce stress, release mood-enhancing endorphins, and improve blood circulation, all of which can help prevent tension headaches.
3. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to headaches. If you feel a headache coming on, try drinking 2 to 4 cups of water to ensure your body has the fluid it needs and to prevent any headaches related to dehydration.
4. Maintain proper posture. Make it a point to remain aware of how you sit and stand. Use sticky notes if you need a reminder. Remember that your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should follow a straight line to the floor while standing. Ears, shoulders and hips while sitting. Be careful not to constantly lean your head to one side such as when holding a phone between your ear and shoulder — use a headset or speakerphone instead.
5. Use a back support. If you sit for long periods at a time, a back support cushion can help maintain proper posture to relieve stress on the neck and back muscles.
6. Minimize use of pain relievers. Believe it or not, overuse of pain relievers can cause headaches and other pain. if they’re taken on a regular basis. To prevent headaches that are caused from pain relievers, try to limit taking pain medication to no more than twice a week.
7. Keep a headache log. Record what time your headache happened along with what you ate, how much you slept, and activities you participated in within the previous 24 hours. Finding patterns in your log will help you identify headache triggers you can avoid in the future.
Written By: Updated: March 16,2011