A women is sitting at her desk studying. She holds her head with her left hand and scrunches her face in pain.

Prone to Tension Headaches? Here’s How to Get Some Relief

How to Relieve a Tension Headache

Headaches aren’t fun. They can make it challenging to perform almost any task. And they might come on at a time that is less than convenient. Interestingly, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. You might feel pain behind your eyes or in your head and neck. Either way, they aren’t ideal. And if you experience them often enough, they can seriously get in the way of enjoying your life. So, how can you relieve a tension headache?

In this article, we’re exploring everything about tension headaches. Additionally, we’ll provide medicinal and natural methods that you can use to relieve your tension headache and live your life without pain holding you back.

What is a Tension Headache?

A tension headache is a mild to moderate pain felt in your head. Many individuals often describe this pain as though a tight band was slightly squeezing their head. In turn, this produces dull pain. Not exactly ideal, is it?

Typically, a tension headache arises due to the contraction or tightening of a group of muscles in the neck and head. The resulting pain can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. 

Tension Headache Causes

Tension headaches can arise due to various factors. Surprisingly, many experts aren’t even sure of the exact causes. However, there is speculation.

It is thought that the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and head contract and tighten, causing this pain because of depression, stress, or high emotions. Simultaneously, some experts believe that tension headaches often occur in individuals who have a heightened pain sensitivity. This simply means that a person who experiences chronic headaches might have an overly sensitized pain and neural system. But, this doesn’t mean there isn’t treatment available.

However, before we dive into how you can relieve your tension headache, let’s take a closer look at the risk factors and symptoms.

Risk Factors

Common risk factors of a tension headache include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Sleep apnea
  • Neck arthritis
  • Gum chewing
  • Being overweight or obese


Typical signs and symptoms of a tension headache involve:

  • Dull and aching pain in the head
  • Tightness or pressure across the forehead
  • Muscle tenderness in your shoulder blades, shoulders, or neck

There are two types of tension headaches: episodic and chronic. Episodic tension headaches happen less than 15 days within one month. These often last 30 minutes to a week. And these types of tension headaches can develop into chronic tension headaches.

Chronic tension headaches usually last for hours at a time, or they may be continuous. Tension headaches are considered chronic when you have episodic tension headaches that last longer than three months.

If at any point you have severe head pain or if you have recently suffered a head injury and are experiencing pain, seek out emergency care. Head pain is not something you want to take lightly!

Relieving Your Tension Headaches

So, how can you get rid of your tension headaches once and for all? First and foremost, discuss your options with your doctor. They know you and your medical history best. Thus, they can help determine the best treatment plan for your unique situation. This treatment plan may include the following methods.

Medicinal Remedies

Many individuals opt for over-the-counter pain remedies, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. And these can help! But in some circumstances, stronger medications are needed to alleviate the pain and prevent it.

Triptans and narcotics may be recommended to individuals who experience migraines and tension headaches. Usually, triptans are used since narcotics can come with various unwanted side effects.

For more severe cases where there is a higher frequency of tension headaches, your doctor may recommend preventive medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or muscle relaxants.

Natural Remedies

Medication isn’t the only option to help relieve your tension headaches. 

There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help with the pain. For instance, many individuals find success with ice packs or heat packs. 

Alternatively, you may want to consider managing your stress levels if you determine that this may be an underlying cause and trigger of your headaches. Focus on getting enough sleep and finding ways to relax. 

Ensuring you maintain proper posture is also essential, especially if tight muscles are involved. Whenever sitting in a chair, make sure you keep your shoulder blades down and back and your head level. Avoid hunching forward.

Other individuals have found many alternative medicinal options that have helped relieve their tension headaches or reduce their frequency. Some options may include regular acupuncture, massage, deep breathing, biofeedback techniques, and behavioral therapy.

Ultimately, it’s about finding what combination of treatments works best for you. Again, talking to your doctor is a great place to start. And sometimes, it really can be as simple as finding ways to reduce the stress in your life.

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