Tension headaches, which are also commonly known as stress headaches, plague more than three million individuals per year. These headaches are recognizable by the sensation of pressure and pain on both sides of the head that is often described as a feeling similar to that of a tight band wrapped around your head.
Tension headaches are likely caused by high levels of stress and muscle contraction. While tension headaches are common and not life-threateningly severe, they can still be quite painful and can prevent you from participating in your normal daily activities. Fortunately, these headaches are also very treatable, and there are many ways to get rid of tension headaches fast.
1.) Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medication
Prescription medication is generally prescribed for the treatment of tension headaches in only chronic and severe cases. However, there are several over-the-counter medications that can help soothe these headaches so that you can get through your day successfully and pain-free. The pain medication that is most effective at relieving the painful symptoms of tension headaches is any type of analgesic, which is an anti-inflammatory medication. A common analgesic that is sold in most drug stores is Tylenol. The standard dose indicated on the bottle of this analgesic can help clear up a mild tension headache within thirty minutes or less.
2.) Try a Prescription
As stated above, prescription medication can be used to treat tension headaches when they are chronic and severely painful. If your tension headaches occur frequently and your symptoms are unresponsive to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain relieving medications, it might be time to try prescription medication. Various prescription medications are known to help relieve symptoms of tension headaches. These medications include triptans or even anti-depressants such as Effexor. If you feel that your tension headaches are severe enough to warrant prescription medication, talk to your doctor about which medication would work most effectively in your case.
3.) Get a Massage
A massage is a great, easy treatment for tension headaches. The most common speculations regarding the cause of tension headaches is that they stem from high levels of stress, abnormal muscle contractions, or both. Getting a massage relaxes you both emotionally and physically, thereby lowering your stress levels and helping relax your muscles in order to eliminate likely causes of tension headaches and hopefully relieve the headache itself.
4.) Apply Heat
Applying a heating pad, hot water bottle, warm cloth, or other source of heat directly to your head is an effective form of tension headache treatment. Heat relaxes the muscles in the area it is applied and can therefore relieve a tension headache by preventing muscle contraction that can cause and worsen this type of headache. When you feel a tension headache coming on, lie downs, relax, and apply heat for fifteen to thirty minutes to soothe your muscles and your headache.
5.) Apply Ice
Interestingly, the application of ice can also be a method of tension headache relief. While ice and heat are both well-known pain relievers, they are normally recommended separately for different ailments. However, in the case of tension headaches, either one is reported to significantly reduce symptoms of pain, so you can choose to apply whichever you prefer. If you choose to use ice, you can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen food wrapped in a towel and apply it the same way you would apply heat as directed above.
6.) Fix your Posture
If you have gotten into the habit of bad posture, you’re in the same boat as almost ninety percent of the population. However, slouching and other negative posture positions can cause tension headaches by forcing your muscles to contract unnaturally. By straightening your back and shoulders and keeping your head and neck upright as often as possible, you can prevent and relieve tension headaches quickly and easily.
7.) Try Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises are known to quickly alleviate symptoms of tension headaches by relieving stress and relaxing muscles. These types of exercises are frequently taught in yoga classes and pilates classes. You can also ask your doctor about special breathing techniques you can try to help relieve your headaches. Pick a deep breathing exercise that suits you, and try to repeat it immediately as soon as you sense the initial symptoms of a tension headache.
8.) Make an Acupuncture Appointment
Acupuncture is a form of alternative, holistic medicine that treats patients with thin needles and is renowned for its ability to relieve the painful symptoms of various injuries and ailments. Many individuals who suffer from chronic tension headaches report that acupuncture helps lessen the symptoms of these headaches permanently. Most cities or counties have several reputable acupuncture clinics; check online to see what acupuncture resources are available in your area.
9.) Stretch Regularly
Stretching is a surprisingly effective way to alleviate tension headaches. Performing a simple, fast stretching routine that effectively stretches the neck, shoulder, and back muscles every day can help permanently eliminate symptoms of tension headaches. Stretching relaxes the body and the mind in order to relieve both the stress and the muscle contraction that are likely the culprits of your tension headaches. You can find great stretching techniques online; you can also download a stretching tutorial video, or try a yoga class in your area.
10.) Buy a Different Chair
Many of us sit in low-quality chairs for many hours per day at work at our desk and at our computer upon returning home at the end of the day. These chairs can worsen tension headaches by rendering it impossible to maintain good posture. By investing in a different chair with sufficient back and neck support, you can retain your straight posture even when sitting down and eliminate your tension headaches altogether.
Other Useful Tips on Relieving Tension Headaches
- Always consult with your doctor before trying any of the above tips. While they are proven to work effectively for many individuals, every case is different and you should never attempt a solution on your own before talking to a medical professional.
- Start small. Don’t turn straight to prescription medication or sign up for a two-hour yoga seminar every day of the week. Such extreme action can have the opposite of the desired effect and actually make your headaches worse. Instead of going over-the-top immediately, try the milder solutions first and work up to the more severe lifestyle changes if they prove ineffective.
- Many of the tips above are targeted toward reducing your stress levels because high levels of stress are a major cause for tension headaches. However, stress reduction is different for everyone depending on the causes of your stress. If you suffer from chronic tension headaches, try to consider the largest causes of stress in your current life and eliminate as many as possible. Overall stress reduction in your daily life can be a significantly effective way to prevent tension headaches.