How to Relieve a Tension Headache
The precise causes of tension headaches are unknown. In the past, some doctors believed that the pain stemmed from muscle contractions in the face, neck, and scalp that resulted from stress or heightened emotions. However, recent research findings suggest that muscle contractions are not an underlying factor. Instead, many experts now believe that tension headaches often develop in people who have an increased sensitivity to pain or stress (a commonly reported trigger).
It’s important to see a doctor if you have frequent headaches, or if you experience a headache that is sudden and severe, lasts for more than a few days, or occurs after a head injury. Also, if you have a headache that is accompanied by fever, a stiff neck, double vision, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, numbness, severe nausea, or seizures, you should seek immediate medical attention.
To help prevent tension headaches and reduce their severity when they occur, there are a variety of steps you can take. For instance, some home remedies and lifestyle changes you can try include:
- Resting in a dark, quiet room – People who have tension headaches are often highly sensitive to both light and sound.
- Breathing deeply – Count to five as you inhale, filling your abdomen with air, then exhale slowly for another count of five to promote a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Applying heat or ice to painful areas – Sit in a dimly lit area and place a heating pad or ice pack (whichever you prefer) on your forehead, temples, or neck.
- Taking an over-the-counter headache medication – Some effective options include acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen (unless otherwise directed by a physician, you should limit your use of headache medications to no more than three consecutive days).
- Drinking a cup of coffee – Caffeine can sometimes help headache medications work faster and better.
- Playing your favorite music in the background – Choose a soundtrack that you enjoy, preferably something that is soothing or uplifting.
- Standing up straight – Good posture can help prevent muscle tension.
- Exercising regularly – Physical activity can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s “feel good” hormones, which can help reduce the number and severity of headaches.
- Getting periodic massages – Overly tight muscles in the head, neck, and shoulder areas can sometimes trigger tension headaches.
If you have questions about preventing or treating tension headaches, please contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL, and no appointments are necessary.