A tension-type headache is known most generally for mild to moderate pain that is likened to a band that tightens around the head. Here are some interesting information about tension headaches:
- The diagnosis of tension headaches is made after a physical examination and a discussion of symptoms. In some cases, imaging may be recommended to rule out other conditions.
- Relaxation and stress management may offer as much relief as pain relievers.
- Tension headaches may occur a few or many days during the month.
- Pain in the jaw or neck can be a trigger for tension headaches.
What Makes Tension Headaches Happen?
It is not well understood what causes these headaches to happen. One theory is that they may be due to a lower-than-normal endurance for pain. Stress is more than likely involved. However, this is not the only explanation for the symptoms. Other contributing factors may be:
- Sleep disturbances
- Neck pain
- A problem with the joint of the jaw – TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)
What are the Symptoms of Tension Headaches?
The most common symptoms of tension headaches are:
- Feeling as if a band is tightening around the head
- The pain begins in the front of the head or near the eyes and the spreads over the entire head
- They may be episodic or chronic:
- Episodic: Occurring less than 15 days during a 30 day period with mild to moderate pain. They can last 30 minutes to several days. They tend to worsen as the day progresses. They rarely wake people from sleep.
- Chronic: Occurring 15 or more days during a 30 day period. As more headaches occur, they may get more severe. Pain is always present but may get more intense as the day goes on.
- These headaches are not accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or made worse by physical activity. Those are symptoms that belong to migraine headaches. However, some mild migraines may closely resemble tension headaches.
Home Remedies for Tension Headaches
Taking over-the-counter painkillers are an option when you suffer from a tension headache. However, this basically just covers over the symptoms and does not address the underlying cause. While natural remedies may not work as quickly as taking a pill, they can be beneficial. They do not cause further health problems due to side effects, and they will not let you become addicted. So, give them a chance before grabbing that bottle of Tylenol.
Cayenne pepper: Cayenne is a well-known and loved way to care for pain and inflammation. The reason it is so popular is due to a main component called capsaicin. This works to inhibit something in our body that causes pain perception called Substance P. Substance P makes us feel pain, but the capsaicin depletes it. A variety of studies confirm that when capsaicin is applied topically to the nasal passages, people notice a dramatic drop in the severity of headaches. To do this you will need:
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 4 ounces of warm water
- Cotton swabs
Directions: Dilute the cayenne powder in the water. Use the cotton swab to stir and make sure it is covered with the cayenne. Apply to the inside of each nostril until you feel the heat. This should work to decrease your headache pain.
Almonds: Yes, eating almonds can be a natural remedy and a healthier alternative to taking medication. They contain something called salicin – an ingredient in some over-the-counter painkillers. Eating a handful or so of these delicious nuts can help mitigate the pain of tension headaches.
Feverfew: Feverfew, a natural herb, is known for relaxing tension and constricting blood vessels in your head. This eases the painful pressure you feel when a headache comes on. It is also good for reducing inflammation and pain due to an ingredient called parthenolide, similar to aspirin. To try this remedy: Add 1 ounce of fresh or dried feverfew flowers to 1 pint of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain, and drink a ½ cup twice a day, as needed.
Stretch, breathe, and try to relax: When we are stressed, our bodies react by tensing up, leading to knotted up muscles in the shoulder, back, and neck. These can lead to tension headaches. What can you to do keep calm?
- Breathe: It is important to get a good lungful of air to get the most out of the oxygen we take in. Most of us breathe too shallowly, and this is true, especially, when we are under stress or feeling pain.
- Drop your shoulders: We often don’t realize we are doing it, but we carry our shoulders scrunched up and too high. Be aware and try to keep them relaxed.
How Upper Cervical Care Helps Tension Headaches
Another contributing factor to tension headaches is having a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck. If the atlas bone – the top vertebra of the spine – misaligns, it can cause tension in your spinal cord. This can make the signals being sent between the brain and body to become distorted and cause tension-type headaches.
A study revealed that out of 47 patients with non-migraine type headaches, all of them reported a 75% decrease in symptoms after three to four months of receiving upper cervical chiropractic care. They began seeing results in only two weeks of visits with only one adjustment being made.
We use a gentle, pain-free method to help the bones of the neck to move back into the proper position. This does not involve popping or cracking the spine. It allows a more natural process to take place, leading to longer-lasting adjustments and positive results. Our patients have reported similar results to those mentioned in the study above.