A tension-type headache is characterized by pain that is mild to moderate and feels similar to a band tightening around the head. Here is more interesting information regarding tension headaches:
- The diagnosis of tension headaches is made after a physical examination and a discussion of symptoms. In some cases, the doctor will recommend imaging tests to rule out other conditions.
- Relaxation and stress management could bring the same amount of relief as pain relievers.
- Tension headaches may happen a few or many days during the month.
- Pain in the jaw or neck can be a trigger for tension headaches.
What Causes Tension Headache Onset?
Not much is understood about why these headaches happen. There is one theory that it could be related to a lower-than-normal endurance for pain. Stress is the most likely factor, but this does not explain all the associated symptoms. Here are a few other possible contributing factors:
- Sleep disturbances
- Neck pain
- A problem with the joint of the jaw – TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)
What Are the Characteristics of a Tension Headache?
The most usual symptoms of tension headaches are as follows:
- Feeling like a band is tightening around the head
- A pain that starts in the front of the head or near the eyes and the reaches over the entire head
- They may be episodic or chronic:
- Episodic: Happens less than 15 days during a 30-day period with mild to moderate pain. The duration may last 30 minutes to several days and tends to worsen as the day progresses but is rarely severe enough to wake people from sleep.
- Chronic: Happens 15 or more days during a 30-day period. As headaches increase, they may become more severe. Pain is always present but may increase in intensity as the day continues.
- These headaches are not accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or worsened by physical activity. Those are symptoms connected to migraine headaches. However, in some cases, mild migraines may be very similar to tension headaches.
At-Home Care for Tension Headaches
A common treatment option for tension headaches are over-the-counter painkillers. The problem with this option is that it only deals with the symptoms without resolving the underlying cause and may also include some unwanted side effects. While natural remedies may not be as quick to bring relief as taking a pill, they definitely have their benefits. One valuable benefit is that they do not cause further health issues caused by side effects, and they are not addictive. So, instead of reaching for the Tylenol, why not try some natural remedies first?
Cayenne pepper: Cayenne is a common way to treat pain and inflammation, a popular choice because of the main component called capsaicin. This helps by inhibiting something called Substance P in our body, which is responsible for pain perception. Substance P makes us feel pain, but the capsaicin depletes it. Multiple studies confirm that when capsaicin is topically applied to the nasal passages, people experienced a notable drop in the severity of headaches. To try this remedy, you will need:
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 4 ounces of warm water
- Cotton swabs
Directions: First dilute the cayenne powder in the water. Then, using a cotton swab to stir, ensure that it is covered with the cayenne. Apply to the inside of each nostril until you feel the heat. This very often works well to decrease headache pain.
Almonds: A surprising type of remedy, ingesting almonds can be used as a natural remedy and a healthier alternative to taking medication. The reason for this is that they contain salicin – an ingredient that is found in several over-the-counter painkillers. By eating a handful of these tasty nuts, you may possibly be able to mitigate the pain of tension headaches.
Feverfew: Feverfew, a natural herb, has a reputation for relaxing tension and constricting blood vessels in your head. This helps ease the painful pressure that happens when a headache comes on. It is also a great way to reduce inflammation and pain because of an ingredient called parthenolide, that works similar to aspirin. Here’s a recipe if you’d like 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 relax: Stress causes our bodies to tense up, which can cause knotted up muscles in the shoulders, back, and neck. This can lead to tension headaches. Here are a few ways that you can keep calm.
- Breathe: One way to calm your body is by getting a good lungful of air to absorb as much oxygen as possible. Most people breathe too shallowly, especially when under stress or feeling pain.
- Drop your shoulders: Most people don’t realize when it’s happening, but very often we carry our shoulders scrunched up and too high. If you notice this happening, try to keep your shoulders relaxed.
Upper Cervical Care Brings Relief to Tension Headaches
One contributing factor of tension headaches that has not yet been mentioned is a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck. When the atlas bone – the top vertebra of the spine – shifts out of alignment, it can lead to tension in your spinal cord. This can interrupt the messages that are being sent between the brain and body so that they become distorted, leading to tension-type headaches.
A study revealed that out of 47 patients with non-migraine type headaches, every one of them experienced a 75% decrease in symptoms following three to four months of upper cervical chiropractic care. The results were noticed after only two weeks of visits that involved only one adjustment.
The method that we use in our chiropractic therapy Escondido office is a gentle and pain-free way that helps the bones of the neck to return to their correct position. This means that we do not pop or crack the spine by using force. This method also allows for a more natural process to take place, resulting in longer-lasting adjustments, more time for the body to begin its natural healing process, and a higher likelihood of positive results. Our patients experience similar results to those mentioned in the study above.