Tension headaches are believed to be the most common type of headache. The primary symptom of this type of headache is a tight, gripping pain on the top of the head that sometimes spreads to the back of the neck. In addition to the feeling of constriction, sufferers may also feel a stinging, tingling, or burning sensation on the skin of the head and neck. Tension headaches come on slowly and may last for hours if untreated. The pain accompanying the condition typically varies in severity over the course of one to six hours.
Tension headaches are caused by a tight contraction of the cranial and cervical muscles outside the skull. Although these headaches are sometimes caused by poor posture, which can strain the neck muscles, they are most commonly caused by stress, illness, and fever.
Signs and Symptoms
- Dull, gripping pain in the scalp, temples, and/or back of the neck
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle stiffness in the neck and front of the head
Conventional Medical Treatment
Tension headaches respond well to over-the-counter analgesics, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. As a result, most tension headaches can be treated at home without having to see a doctor.
If, on the other hand, you experience more than two tension headaches a week for an extended period of time, visit your physician. To rule out other disorders that also cause headaches-such as brain tumors, vision impairment, or sinus conditions-your doctor may want to perform a urinalysis, vision test, sinus X-ray, skull X-ray, or CAT scan. If over-the-counter medications do not offer relief, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAlDs) to reduce the pain.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
Eat a well-balanced diet in small meals, and feel free to eat between meals. This helps stabilize your blood sugar levels. Be sure to include pineapple, cherries, almonds, garlic, parsley, and fennel in your diet. All are rich in nutrients-such as bromelain, vitamin E, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatories-that minimize pain. Get a daily supply of fiber.
Foods to avoid include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, chewing gum, ice cream, and salt. Eliminate foods containing tyramine and the amino acid phenylalanine; reintroduce them one at a time to determine which foods cause your headaches. Jyramine is found in chicken, alcoholic beverages, bananas, cheese, chocolate, citrus, cold cuts, onions, peanut butter, pork, smoked fish, sour cream, vinegar, wine, and fresh-baked yeast products. Jyramine raises blood pressure, which can cause a dull headache. Phenylalanine is found in aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) , and the preservatives used in hot dogs and lunch meats. Check for other food sensitivities, such as dairy or wheat.
Try to get a daily dose of exercise, which improves blood circulation to the brain. In addition, the following recommended daily supplements should help treat those nasty headaches.
- D-L-phenylalanine (DLPA) (500 mg 3 times before meals)
- bromelain (500 mg as needed)-regulates inflammation
- calcium (lactate or citrate form, not carbonate)(1500 mg)-alleviates muscular tension
- magnesium (glycinate form) (1000 mg)
- coenzyme (30 mg twice daily)-improves tissue oxygenation
- glucosamine sulfate (as directed on label)-a natural alternative to aspirin
- Potassium (99 mg)-helps provide the proper sodmm and potassium balance, which helps prevent water retention
- vitamin B3 and niacinamide (up to 300 mg, not to be exceeded; stop and maintain the dosage that provides relief)-aids in the functioning of the nervous system (Do not take niacin if you have a liver disorder, gout, or high blood pressure.)
- vitamin C with bioflavonoids (2000 to 8000 mg in divided doses)-assists with the production of anti-stress hormones
- vitamin E (start with 400 IU and slowly increase to 1200 IU)-improves circulation)
All of the following remedies can help relax the muscles of your face, neck, upper back, and shoulders, thereby keeping headaches at bay.
- Combine 1 teaspoon sunflower oil and 1 drop peppermint oil. Apply to your forehead, neck,
and shoulders the moment you feel a tension headache coming on.
- Combine 3 drops Roman chamomile oil, 3 drops lavender oil, 2 drops marjoram oil, 2 drops thyme oil, and 1 drop coriander oil. Add to warm bath water. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Blend together 1 teaspoon canola or sunflower oil and 1 drop each of marjoram oil, Roman chamomile oil, lavender oil, coriander oil, helichrysum oil, basil oil, and ginger oil. Use to massage your neck and shoulders.
- Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your temples. You can also blend lavender oil and peppermint oil, and massage a few drops of the blend into your temples. If the essential oils themselves feel too harsh on your skin, blend them with 1 teaspoon of canol a or sunflower oil.
Specific chiropractic adjustment (SCA) in conjunction with physical therapy can be extremely effective in decreasing the frequency and intensity of tension headaches. In many cases, these headaches are associated with spasms and pain in the posterior cervical muscles (back of the neck) and trapezius muscles (back of the upper arm). The scalp and forehead are often affected as well. Chiropractic care may include soft tissue massage to the affected muscles, moist heat application, electro muscular stimulation, and SCA to generally mobilize cervical vertebrae.
Massage therapy – Taking head massage and massage around the neck and ear will also relax the body and ease the pain.
- Quit Smoking
- Get enough Sleep
- Eat healthy Diet
- Take a brisk walk in fresh air
- Do meditation and deep breathing exercises.