Relieve tension headaches fast with these 10 tips
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and usually feel like a constant ache on both sides of your head. You might also experience pressure behind the eyes and tight, tense neck muscles. We've all suffered from a tension headache at one time or another - usually when we're under pressure or stressed at work and need a headache least!
Whilst tension headaches can last for several days, the good news is that most resolve themselves within 30 minutes to a few hours. Women are more likely to suffer from tension headaches than men, with 50% of adults in the UK experiencing one or two headaches a month. 1 in 3 of us get tension headaches up to 15 times a month (1), with chronic tension headaches affecting our work, sleeping patterns and wellbeing.
So how do you relieve a tension headache?
In order to know how to tackle that tension headache, it helps to be aware of what has triggered it. There are a variety of different things that could trigger a headache, such as:
- Squinting or vision problems
- Poor posture
- Missing meals
- Lack of physical exercise
- Bright sunlight
10 tips to relieve and prevent the ache
We're here to help with these 10 tips that will help prevent headaches from ruining your day and send them packing if they do affect you!
#1. Reduce stress
It's a simple one this - well, simple to say but not so simple in practice. Stress can cause tension headaches to flare up and could even lead to the development of other types of headaches, such as migraines. Taking steps to reduce stress, both at work and in your personal life, can help to reduce the frequency and severity of tension headaches. If you're staring at a pile of paperwork, try taking some time out for a brief session of meditation or some breathing exercises at your desk - even some gentle stretching can help.
If you have a bit more time to spare on your lunch break or after work, alternative therapies such as acupuncture or an aromatherapy massage can offer relief, as can a long, warm bath and a good book!
#2. Get regular exercise
Whether you're addicted to the gym or rarely take any exercise (tut, tut!), making sure you stay active is important if you want to avoid frequent headaches. Getting outside for a workout boosts your vitamin D levels, regulating your body clock and boosting your energy levels, but it also gets those endorphins flowing for a mood boost and fitness boost! Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week - it could be anything from a morning run to a spot of gardening or a dance class.
#3. Make diet and lifestyle changes
Keeping a food and lifestyle diary could help to identify triggers that are causing your headaches. For some people, certain foods can trigger headaches, or you could find that on days you spend more time in front of your computer, headaches tend to strike. Adjusting your lifestyle and your eating patterns - for example, making sure you don't skip breakfast - can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your body healthy and happy, and headaches at bay.
#4. Try a facial massage
You may not have the time or money to go for a spa facial, but a relaxing facial massage at home can help to relieve the symptoms of a headache, and it's also a pampering treatment that's good for your skin! Try blending a few drops of lavender essential oil with some grapeseed or sweet almond oil - you'll find these oils in most larger Boots stores or at your local health food store - and gently massage your brows, temples, forehead and around your eyes. Lavender is renowned for its relaxing properties and is often used in aromatherapy massage blends.
#5. Don't pop painkillers
Popping painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be tempting, particularly if you suffer from frequent tension headaches whilst you're at work. But this could actually do more harm than good! Taking painkillers over a longer period of 10 days or more could lead to headaches developing when you stop taking the medication (2). If you're experiencing this, or are worried about stopping taking painkillers due to ongoing headaches, it's a good idea to see your GP.
#6. Take a screen break
We spend more time sitting at some form of screen than ever before, and even when you're on a break at work, you could find yourself staring at the TV or your smartphone. Sitting at a screen for long periods of time could cause a tension headache, so make sure you take regular screen breaks, even if it's just to make a cup of tea, have a drink of water or stretch your legs with a quick walk around the office.
#7. Have a sight test
Squinting or straining to see can cause a tension headache, and if it has been a while since your last sight test, it's a good idea to book an appointment with your optician. If you wear contact lenses or glasses, it could be that your prescription has changed, or it may be that you need to start wearing glasses whilst using a computer at work. Headaches can often be one of the first signs that something isn't quite right with your vision.
#8. Avoid lazy lie-ins
After a week of deadlines, 10 hour days and overtime at the office, we all look forward to the weekends! But why do we often wake up after a lazy lie-in on a Saturday morning with a pounding headache - even when we haven't been out drinking the night before? The working week causes a build-up of tension, and when this tension subsides at the weekend, it causes our body's levels of stress hormones to drop, releasing neurotransmitters which send impulses to our blood vessels to constrict and dilate. This can lead to the development of a nasty, pounding headache!
Try to avoid the temptation to sleep in at the weekend - have an early night instead, as sleeping for more than 8 hours could cause headaches. We recommend making time for relaxation during your working week - try a yoga class or make time for meditation or reading, so you don't cram all your relaxation into the weekend.
#9. Sit up straight
The tension that poor posture causes in your neck, shoulders and back can cause a dull throbbing at the base of your skull and forehead. Sitting in one position for a long period of time, such as hunched over your desk, can lead to pain and headaches; even standing for long periods is bad news! Make sure you sit up straight and support your lower back - ideally, you should have an adjustable work chair which provides proper support. If you have back or neck pain or posture problems which are triggering headaches, seeing an osteopath or chiropractor could help.
#10. Avoid frozen treats
A scoop of ice cream on your cheat day or a frozen fruit smoothie on your lunch break might seem like a good idea to keep your cool when it's hot outside, but when cold material hits the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat, the result could be a headache! Usually, these headaches resolve themselves pretty quickly, but if you're already feeling stressed, then it could develop into a tension headache that ruins your day! Stick to fruit smoothies without frozen fruit or bring your own from home if you're prone to this type of sensitivity.
Sometimes, there's nothing you can do to prevent a tension headache striking - you know if you've been overdoing it at work and eating too much junk food that your body is going to retaliate. But by being aware of your triggers and taking steps to lead a more balanced lifestyle, you can prevent tension headaches most of the time, and get rid of them quickly when they threaten to ruin your day! What are your top tips for getting relief from tension headaches - is there anything we haven't mentioned that we should try?
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