Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches. They are characterized by pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, and are generally seen with muscle tightness in these areas. Tension headaches can occur in people of all age groups but are commonly observed in women.

Triggers of tension headaches include:

  • Physical or emotional stress

  • Excessive intake of caffeine

  • Eye strain

  • Colds, the flu, or a sinus infection

  • Excessive smoking or alcohol consumption

  • Fatigue or overexertion

Although there are many treatments available for tension headaches, managing one through simple lifestyle and diet modifications is recommended.

8 Effective Tips to Help You Get Relief From Tension Headaches

1. Manage your stress levels. There are many simple ways to help you to relax and get rid of stress.

  • High levels of stress can contribute to pain, most often in the form of pain in the neck and shoulders. A good neck and shoulder or a body massage can help you beat the stress.

  • Take frequent, short breaks between work throughout the day, to relax your eyes, neck, shoulders, and mind.

  • Exercise regularly to decrease overall levels of tension. Exercise reduces levels of your ‘stress hormones’, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and releases ‘good and happy hormones’ such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which elevates your mood and reduces stress.

  • Spend some time every day, doing things that you enjoy and that make you happy. Enjoy an old hobby or try a new one. 

  • Many professionals find that being “constantly available” is a stressor. It is important to keep your phone and laptop away after working hours. 

  • Family dinner is a great time to disconnect and focus on your loved ones. Bonding and connecting with family/friends/loved ones gives happiness and relieves stress. 

2. Upper cervical chiropractic for tension headaches. When the top two bones in the neck (cervical region), the atlas (C1), and the axis (C2), get affected, tension headache sets in. Misalignments in this area can affect brainstem function, reduce blood flow to the head, and may even increase intracranial pressure. The brainstem performs basic functions such as regulating the blood, breathing, eating, and sleeping. Intracranial pressure (ICP) is the pressure exerted by fluids inside the skull.

To learn if this is the source of your headache, schedule an examination with your doctor. Chiropractors use a targeted methodology to relieve tension headaches. They focus on adjusting the alignment of your spine to decrease the stress on the nervous system which helps in tension headaches. For some patients, upper cervical chiropractic care has meant the end of tension headaches forever!

3. Ice pack for your neck. Inflammation due to injury/swelling in the neck is another problem that can lead to tension headaches. While you may be tempted to take a hot shower, this will push more blood to the area and increase inflammation. 

Cold therapy is necessary to reduce the swelling. Remember to wrap your ice pack in a towel, so it does not directly come in contact with the skin of your neck, and use ice only for about 20 minutes at a time.

4. Adjust your posture and the way you sleep. Many common headaches begin with tension in the neck and the shoulders. Maintaining a good posture is necessary to prevent the occurrence of tension headaches. Maintain the right posture if you use mobile devices frequently or if you have a desk job that requires sitting at one place all day.

5. Manage your caffeine intake. No, we’re not going to tell you that you have to give up coffee. In fact, a little caffeine is good for blood flow, so your morning cup of joe may do more than just help you wake up – it may help prevent a tension headache from forming. But too much caffeine can ramp up the body to the point where headaches are more likely, so it is time to end the full pot of coffee per day habit.

6. Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. Staying hydrated reduces chronic pain as well as eases muscle tension that causes headaches. If you cannot keep a count of your daily water intake, download an app to track it.

7. Avoid medication overuse. Many over the counter (OTC) pain relievers can actually cause rebound headaches if you use them too often or for too long. This creates a vicious cycle that results in more headaches and more pills.

8. Physiotherapy for spasm in neck/muscle tightness. Spasms in the neck or muscle tightness can also cause headaches. For relief, there are various exercises you should do after consulting with a certified physiotherapist.

If you experience frequent tension headaches, consult your doctor immediately.


Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.