Did you know that stress can manifest in physical ways? Many of us tend to think of stress as something that affects our feelings and moods. However, stress can also cause physical symptoms like tension headaches. Unlike other types of headaches, tension headaches can occur throughout your head and even extend into your neck and shoulders. Finding out what triggers your tension headaches can help you prevent these uncomfortable stress headaches from continuing to bother you. If you are wondering how to get rid of a headache, then check out options like at-home remedies and chiropractic treatment for headaches.
What Is a Tension Headache?
You may be surprised to learn that tension headaches are actually the most common type of headache. A tension headache, also commonly referred to as a stress headache, will typically cause pain that ranges from mild to intense. Many people who experience tension headaches describe the feeling as like a tight band is wrapped around their forehead. Tension headaches can come and go, meaning they occur more than once per month. Tension headaches may also become chronic, causing you pain and discomfort for long periods of time. Unlike other headaches where the pain occurs in a specific spot, tension headaches can cause pain behind your eyes, along the back of your skull, and into the neck. The pain of a tension headache has been described as a dull pain or pressure around the whole head.
Common Causes of Tension Headaches
Perhaps you are wondering what causes tension headaches. One of the most common causes of tension headaches is stress. Whether you are experiencing stress because of a specific life event or due to your daily responsibilities, stress can cause a physical response in the body like a tension, or stress, headache. When we are stressed, not only does this heighten our emotional responses, but it also causes us to tense our muscles. Sudden or prolonged experiences with stress can cause you to raise your shoulders and clench your jaw. These physical reactions can put additional pressure and strain on your neck and contribute to the development of a tension headache.
In addition to stress, other tension headache causes can include eye strain, fatigue, dental problems, and not drinking enough water or skipping meals. When you have a busy day, it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself in these small ways. However, before you know it, you’ve missed a meal and haven’t had a sip of anything to drink other than a caffeinated beverage all day. These external factors can play a large role in how your body manages stress. Too much caffeine without enough water can trigger tension headaches for many people. Spending a long time staring at a computer screen can lead to eye strain and tension in your facial muscles. Your sleep habits can also play a role in how a tension headache may occur. Grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep can cause muscle tension and lead to tension headaches the next day.
8 Options for Tension Headache Relief
Tension headache treatment may vary depending on what is causing your headaches and how your body reacts. When tension headaches start to interfere with your quality of life, then you need to find tension headache treatment that will help. Talk to your doctor about your options for tension headache relief and consider a variety of at-home remedies and other treatment options. If tension headaches keep happening to you, then check out these 8 ways to get rid of a tension headache.
Taking over-the-counter pain medications is often the first line of defense for many who deal with headaches. While pain medications can help temporarily relieve symptoms, it also helps to work with your doctor to identify the underlying cause of your tension headaches. If lack of sleep is a cause of your tension headaches, then your doctor may also recommend medications to help you get better rest.
Applying a cold compress to your head and neck while dealing with a tension headache can help alleviate pain and discomfort. A cold compress or ice pack will help restrict blood vessels and help reduce any inflammation in the area. A cool temperature also offers the added benefit of a temporary numbing sensation to a particular area. Wrap ice or a cold pack in a soft cloth to help protect your skin and apply the cold compress to your forehead, the back of your head, and along the base of your neck.
You may also try alternating a cold compress with a heating pad to help get rid of a tension headache. A heating pad will help encourage your muscles to relax. Tightened muscles in your jaw, neck, and upper back can become stiff and sore, contributing to your overall discomfort. Applying heat will help improve circulation in the area, promoting the healthy flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the area. When a tension headache strikes, using a heating pad or applying a warm compress can help loosen tense muscles.
There are a variety of techniques available to help promote relaxation in your daily life. You may want to try out a new yoga class or use an app to help you practice mindfulness and meditation. Try to skip the pain medications with uncomfortable side effects and instead focus on exploring stress-reducing relaxation techniques to help get rid of tension headaches and prevent them in the future. Focus on improving your self-care throughout your day and incorporating ways to relax and rejuvenate after a long day.
Target areas where you experience pain with tension headaches by using therapeutic massage. Learn how to give yourself a massage or look into therapeutic massage options with your doctor or masseuse. Therapeutic massage is important as it helps to gently target muscles in your scalp, at your temples, and along your jaw to help relieve tension and pain in your head, face, and jaw. Therapeutic massage can also provide you with tension relief in your neck and upper back, where you may also be carrying a lot of stress.
Talking to a counselor or trusted loved one can also help you manage daily and acute stressors in your life. If you recognize that stress is a major contributing factor to your tension headaches, then you want to focus on how to improve your overall health: both physically and mentally. Mental health counseling can help you learn how to better deal with stress and anxiety. A professional counselor can talk with you about options for coping mechanisms to help better support your mental health and reduce your stress and tension.
Chiropractic treatment for tension headaches can also provide you with relief and help prevent stress headaches in the future. Chiropractors use all-natural treatments and techniques to address a wide range of health concerns, including tension headaches. Chiropractic care involves a holistic approach to addressing your pain and getting to the root cause of your symptoms. Your chiropractor can help address ways in which your posture may contribute to the buildup of tension in your neck and upper back. Chiropractors also offer hands-on treatment options like chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic massage. Your chiropractor can also talk to you about ways to improve your nutrition that can help prevent tension headaches from bothering you.
You might associate physical therapy with recovering from a surgery or something that athletes go through. However, physical therapy has a wide range of benefits for people of all ages and managing all kinds of health concerns. Physical therapy for tension headaches can help you learn how to relax and address muscle tension through therapeutic stretches and exercises. If poor posture contributes to your tension headaches, then work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles that support a healthy spine. Physical therapy can help you improve your overall strength and mobility so that your body is better prepared to handle tension and stress.
Prevention of Tension Headaches
Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent future tension headaches from wreaking havoc on your day. In most cases, identifying what triggers your tension headaches will help you recognize those triggers and prepare accordingly. When you recognize a potential tension headache trigger, you will be better prepared to take preventative measures to reduce your pain and discomfort. Try keeping a headache diary to track potential triggers when you feel a tension headache coming on. Making note of what you ate and drank that day, along with any physical activities you participated in, can help you make a connection between your tension headaches and likely triggers.
Don’t let tension headaches keep you from getting the most out of your day! Visit AICA Orthopedics to meet with our pain specialists and find out how you can experience lasting relief from tension headaches. Our team of multi-specialty doctors includes orthopedic doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who work together to provide you with the comprehensive care you deserve.