The most common type of headache isn’t a migraine, as you probably would have assumed. Tension headaches are the most common, otherwise known as normal headaches, muscle tension headaches, and stress headaches.
What Are They?
A tension headache causes mild to moderate pain, typically located on both sides of the head, causing a pressure of tightening sensation. They can last anywhere from thirty minutes to a few days. Neurologist Emad Estermalik, says “the biggest trigger for tension headaches, and probably the reason they are so common, is stress. In most cases, lifestyle tweaks that reduce stress are enough to keep tension headaches at bay.”
Because stress is the biggest cause, tension headaches tend to affect those who lead high-stress lives, people who are overworked both at home and at work, those who have anxiety or depression, and those who experience sleep disorders.
How Can I Get Relief?
Most people think of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers as a first step to relieving a tension headache. While that can help, it’s better to prevent a tension headache! Here are a few ways that you can work to prevent tension headaches:
Drink Lots of Water
When we become dehydrated, we tend to get headaches. This is because our brain temporarily shrinks, causing pain (a headache). To prevent this from happening, be sure to drink enough water per day and drink water consistently throughout the day. A helpful tip is to make it a habit to always keep a water bottle with you. Perhaps write encouraging words on the water bottle to help you reach your goal of drinking a certain amount of water per day.
Dr. Merle Diamond says that “regular exercise has been shown to reduce headaches by releasing endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers – as well as improving blood flow to the brain and reducing muscle tension and fatigue.”
Improper breathing and poor posture can create tension headaches. How can you fix this? Incorporate both stretching and exercising into your daily routine. Stretching is just as important as exercising. Consider carving out some time each day for a good stretch routine as well as an exercise regime.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
According to this study, disordered sleep and poor sleep quality is a known trigger of headaches. Given this statement, it’s natural to assume that improving your sleep hygiene will reduce the chance of getting a headache.
Sleep hygiene can help you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed. Consider going to bed and waking up around the same time. Make sure the room where you sleep is comfortable, relaxing, and dark. Stop using electronic devices about an hour before bed; consider taking a bath, meditating, or reading before bed to relax you. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and re-consider drinking alcohol before bed.
The American Migraine Foundations defines mindfulness as “paying attention in the present moment without judgement.” This can often look like checking in with yourself, allowing yourself to be present at the moment, responding to what you need at the moment, and noticing things like your breath, your stress level, and how you feel.
Several studies have reported that mindfulness has the potential to control headaches. Furthermore, mindfulness can reduce stress levels.
We are not telling you to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on spa massages, but, we are telling you that deep tissue massages can help to relieve stress and reduce tension, which can ease a tension headache and restore circulation to your head and neck.
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