It’s the rare person who doesn’t experience an occasional headache. But if you’re plagued by frequent tension headaches, you might think there has got to be something you can do beyond regularly reaching into your medicine cabinet.
Sure, pain relievers can work wonders. And, I’m here to steer you to some good options. But fortunately there are a lot of other things you can try to prevent headaches or to nip them in the bud once they’ve begun. Relaxation and stress management are key. Today, many hospitals offer classes in the community to teach you basic relaxation training.
Deep-breathing exercises and meditation are two ways to bring relaxation into your daily schedule. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a difference.(1) Other alternatives may also help ease headaches – either alone or combined with medication. For example, research supports the use of massage, acupuncture, and tai chi, which is a Chinese exercise system that uses slow, meditative movements.(2)
Think about other ways to better manage your stress. You know yourself best. Do you find yourself always rushing from one activity to the next? Squeezing yet another commitment onto your calendar? Then, try out the sound of the word, “no.” Or, do you keep your bottom stuck to your seat and eyes glued to your computer screen throughout the entire day? Then, try taking hourly stretch breaks or five-minute walks around the block. Or, have you found that you’re taking yourself a little too seriously these days? Then, watch a sit-com or call that friend who knows just how to keep you in stitches. Laughter releases substances that can help you relax and feel more positive. (1,3)
As is often the case, prevention – whether for headaches or other ailments – takes you back to the basics, to common-sense self-care. For example, you can ease muscle tension with a hot bath or shower, warm compress, or heating pad set on low. Some people also find that it helps to apply ice wrapped in a cloth to sore neck and shoulder muscles. (1)
Here are a few other pointers:
Need more ideas? I’m right here!
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. Mayo Clinic: “Tension-type headaches: Self-care measures for relief.” Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/headaches/HE00006/METHOD=print. Accessed March 6, 2012.
2. NCCAM: “Headaches and CAM.” Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm#science. Accessed March 6, 2012.
3. Mayo Clinic: “Headaches: Reduce stress to prevent the pain.” Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/headaches/HE00002/METHOD=print. Accessed March 6, 2012.