A tension headache is the result of stress, anxiety or muscle tension and is the most common type of headache. It is often described as pressure like a tight band which occurs when the muscles at the back of your head, neck and shoulders contract and go into spasm. Tension headache can last from a couple of hours to several days.If your headaches happen 15 or more days in a month for several months, they are considered chronic tension headaches. If they occur less frequently, they are called episodic tension headaches.
These headaches are really unpleasant as well as a nuisance. They may not stop you functioning altogether in the way a migraine does, but they sure can make day-to-day life a miserable challenge and more difficult. Many women sufferers say that tension headaches make them feel irritable or depressed and even more prone to arguing.The pain of a headache forces one to head straight for a painkiller. This is a sticky situation, because ultimately that will only perpetuate the problem. Some sufferers take up to 10 painkillers every day-with little effect, because the body has developed a tolerance to analgesics. Anyone who takes daily analgesics for headaches probably suffers from chronic daily headache. And if you take three doses a week, you are well on your way to analgesic dependence.
Triggers may include:
A hectic lifestyle, followed by a heavy workload and coping with family challenges are possible triggers. Scientists suggest tension headaches are caused by changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. They don’t know why the levels of neurotransmitters go up and down, but they think it activates pain pathways in the brain. Tight muscles may help trigger the changes in neurotransmitters, or muscle tightness may be a result of changing levels of brain chemicals. Also, prolonged periods spent sitting in an awkward position – such as when working at your desk, using a computer, reading, driving or playing a video game – can cause the muscles at the back of your neck, in your head and across your back and shoulders to tense and tighten up. When muscles tense, blood flow to the area becomes restricted, causing the muscles to go into spasm and resulting in pain.
Other common tigers of tension headache are eye strain, fatigue, overexertion, premenstrual syndrome, changes in estrogen levels during a woman’s period or at menopause, arthritis, alcohol and a muscle, head or neck injury, even years after the injury. An awkward sleeping position or too little sleep can also give you a headache in the morning.Certain foods or food additives, as well as skipping meals may also be a trigger for some people. To say the least, your medications, including some headache medications (leading to rebound headaches) may be what are causing your tension headaches.
Here are a few natural cures- one of them is bound to relieve the misery:
Aromatherapy oils– can soothe the pain and help lift muscle tension and stress. For example, peppermint oil, applied topically to the forehead, has shown some promise in very early studies. In one study, applying a 10% peppermint oil solution to the temples relieved pain about as well as acetaminophen (Tylenol). It can also be applied to various parts of the body- like the back of your jaw, temples and chest. If youhave sensitive skin, try diluting it with a bit of olive oil.
Alternatively, try a steam treatment by adding a few drops of the peppermint essential oil to a small pot of boiling water. Inhale the steam for a few minutes.
Be careful not to get peppermint or any essential oil into the eyes.
Lavender oil- is a great overall headache remedy that works for tension and neck tweaks and even for hormonally caused headaches.Put a few drops of lavender essential oil on a tissue and inhale it. Like the peppermint oil, you can also add two drops of lavender oil to two cups of boiling water and inhale the steam.
Massage- Massaging in any of these essential oils- clary sage,chamomile, cloves, ylangylang and rosewood will ease tensed muscles. Body massage is particularly good for posture-related tension headaches. It increases blood circulation to the muscles and encourages lymph drainage, which helps to ease the pain. For body massage, add 2-3two to three drops of the essential oil of your choice to 6 ml ofolive oil.
You can also try scalp massage- using your fingertips apply vigorous friction strokes all around the scalp. This brings fresh blood to the nerve endings around the tension in the scalp and helps to loosen the muscles.
Mustard foot soak- blood drawn to the lower body will reduce pressure in the blood vessels of the head. To help soothe a throbbing headache, soak your feet in a small basin filled with hot water mixed with mustard powder. After a half hour or so, towel dry your feet and apply mustard oil.
Cloves (kanafuru)can be used to ease tension headaches as it has a cooling and pain-relieving properties.Crush a few cloves gently and put them a clean handkerchief. Inhale the smell of the crushed cloves whenever you have a headache until you get some relief from the pain.
Fish oil– studies have shown that the ingestion of fish oil may help reduce inflammation, blood clotting, lower blood pressure, steady heart rhythm and in turn reduce tension headaches. Thanks to its Omega-3 fatty acids. You can mix one tablespoon of fish oil with a glass of cold fresh orange juice and drink. The orange will give it a good taste. If you are taking fish oil capsules, follow the dosing on the bottle.
Flaxseed-which is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, is said to help decrease headaches in people who often eat it. This is thought to be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of the Omega-3 fatty acids.
Vervain (panle, Stachytaphetaindica) – this herb is my favorite for premenstrual or neck tension headache. Infuse one tablespoon in a teacup of boiled water for 15 minutes. Sieve and take up to three times a day.
Yarrow(itekwonwa)-will clear up your system and relieve that tension in your head. It is recommended especially when the tension is resulting from digestive problems. It is prepared and taken like vervain.
Basil(effirin, nchuanwu) works as a muscle relaxant, calminative and analgesic making it a helpful treatment for mild headaches caused by tense muscles. Infuse three or four fresh basil leaves in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Add a little honey, if desired and then sip the tea slowly.
You can chew some fresh basil leaves or massage your forehead. Steam treatments with basil leaves is also very beneficial.
Ginger- the root is thought to inhibit the synthesis of some chemical messengers that mediate biological processes (like inflammation) and alert neurons to pain. Slice some pieces off a raw ginger root. Gently simmer the pieces of ginger in a cup of water covered, for 15 minutes. Sip slowly and breathe in the steam if you want and relax.
You can also mix equal parts of ginger juice and lemon juice. Take 1-2 X daily.
Almonds-a handful of almonds may be all that you need if you have been diagnosed with a tension headache. Almonds are a particularly rich source of salicin. This is a chemical component present in most over the counter pain medications which are prescribed for tension headaches.
Hydrate: Sometimes headaches can be triggered by mild dehydration or lack of food; if so, drinking some non-caffeinated fluids or eating something may help.