Tension Headaches Be Gone!

HeadacheYou know the feeling. That squeezing headache that just won’t quit, unsure if it’s a sinus, cluster or migraine hitting you. But do we really know what type of headache we’re having when we’re having one? Before you reach for those OTC pain relievers, there may be a better treatment with longer term benefits.

Today we’re talking specifically about tension headaches: the most common type that affects upwards of 80% of the population regularly. And even more so for women, with a twice-as-high likelihood of reoccurring tension headaches. But what exactly is a tension headache? If you’ve ever felt like a band was squeezing your head inwards, you’ve probably had one. Neck and scalp muscles tighten, that throbbing, squeezing feeling around the head – and then possibly nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, trouble sleeping, and loss in concentration. 

What Causes Tension Headaches?
There are quite a few factors that could be responsible for those wicked headaches, including caffeine withdrawals, stress, anxiety, and tense muscle pain.  Because tension headaches strike when scalp and neck muscles are contracting, consistent care and regular massages of those same muscle groups can prevent further flare-ups or reduce symptoms when they occur. 

What Can We Do?
Luckily, there are treatment options that require minimal effort but can yield great benefits. These include stretches, yoga poses, and trigger point therapies that help relieve pent up tension in the muscles that are responsible for your headaches. Many of the below treatments can be done on-the-go, require little-to-no space, and take very little time to complete.  

Lateral Neck Flexion (Stretch)
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, begin by standing with proper posture. Slowly lean your head over to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder until you feel a slight stretch down the side of your neck. Do not lean too far as this move should remain within your level of comfort-ability. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side. 

Shoulder Rolls (Stretch)
Again, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and with proper posture, let your arms relax by your sides. Begin to lift your shoulders upwards and roll them up and back towards your posterior. Complete a full circle rotation and continue this motion as you see fit. You should feel a stretch among your shoulders, back, and chest.

Chin Tuck (Stretch)

Begin by standing with proper posture. Look straight ahead and with one hand, raise a finger to the tip of your chin. Without moving your finger, move head straight back until you feel a nice stretch at the base of your skull and neck. Your finger should still be outstretched in front of you and a space between your chin and finger should be present. Return your chin to your finger and repeat. You should only hold this pose for short increments but can be repeated as many times as you feel comfortable. 

Balasana Pose (Active Child’s Pose)

This timeless yoga pose is one of the simpler poses that offers a nice stretch along the spine and shoulders. Because these are usually main points of tension for most people, this should offer some relief. To start, kneel into the floor and sit with your ankles beneath you. Outstretch your arms in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat. Slowly lift your bottom from your feet until you feel a stretch within your shoulders. Return to a resting position. You can repeat this pose as often as you would like if it remains comfortable to you.

Trigger Point Therapy 
Trigger point therapy uses incremental pressure to relieve knotted muscles, improving overall muscle movement. For tension headaches, most of these trigger points lie in the neck, scalp, and face. Because tension headaches occur when neck and scalp muscles are contracting, massage in circular motions and hold steady pressure on either side of the spine at the base of the skull where it meets the neck. 

Another trigger point lives in the shoulders, between the neck and shoulder blade. When you shrug upwards, you should feel a dip in the shoulder. This dip is where you will apply steady pressure to relieve knotted shoulder muscles. 

Lastly, tension headaches are described as a squeezing sensation around the head. As such, the face is another point of tension to apply pressure. Locate the inner edge of your eyebrows on either side of your nose. While your headache is pulsating, you should begin to feel some release as you apply continuous pressure. You can repeat these as often as you deem necessary if you feel comfortable doing so.

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Safety and Precautions

When working out or doing strenuous movements, warm-up and stretch your muscles to prevent injury to those muscles and keep muscles from tensing up when relaxed. Cool-down routines after heavy activity can help relax muscles back to a resting state without blood pooling or lightheadedness that often happens when activity suddenly stops. When stretching, do not push yourself to the point where it is painful to you or your muscles. Pushing too hard can cause the same strain and tensity you are trying to avoid, keeping tension headaches at bay. It’s recommended holding trigger point massages and stretches for 30-45 seconds depending on your comfort level. Some poses may require more time but do what is best for you. 

headache bro

These movements and techniques may help to relieve those stubborn tension headaches you just cannot seem to shake. While they will not cure your chronic headaches overnight, you should see improvement in mobility in those problem areas, improving your headaches in turn. Here is to relief and better, headache-free days to come!


Works Cited

Ace Fitness. www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library/202/lateral-neck-flexion/?utm_source=Rakuten&utm_medium=10&ranMID=42334&ranEAID=a1LgFw09t88&ranSiteID=a1LgFw09t88-IhGZoD0iA3KtHOwijOthBA. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

Cirino, Erica. "The Best Pressure Points to Treat Headaches." Healthline, edited by Jeanne Morrison, Dr., 3 May 2018, www.healthline.com/health/pressure-points-for-headaches#1. Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

Spine Health. 10 Sept. 2018, www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/easy-chin-tucks-neck-pain. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

"Tension headache." Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 July 2020, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000797.htm. Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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