Young asian woman sufering from tension headache

Easing Your Tension Headaches

Headaches are a common issue among adults in the United States, with an estimated nine out of ten experiencing them from time to time. Having some form of pain from a headache may be a passing annoyance, or it could be a more frequent discomfort that leads to missing work or taking time away from social activities. The most common type of headache – a tension headache – is often treated with over-the-counter pain medication and rest, but there may be other steps you can take to reduce the occurrence of tension headaches over time.


First, though, it is important to understand why tension headaches happen.


Understanding Tension Headaches

While less severe than other forms of headaches, such as migraines, tension headaches have certain characteristics that are uncomfortable when not addressed. The symptoms of a tension headache include:

  • Gradual onset of pain or discomfort
  • Pain on both sides of the head
  • A dull pain that wraps around the head
  • Discomfort that extends to the neck or back
  • Mild to moderate pain that can last up to several hours

You may also experience irritability with a tension headache, as well as an inability to focus at home or work.


In many cases, tension headaches are triggered by a stressful event or ongoing stress that isn’t addressed or reduced. A higher level of stress leads to muscle tension in the neck and back, which can be exacerbated by lack of sleep, poor posture, low iron levels, jaw or dental problems, or anxiety. While a simple pain killer will help relieve a tension headache, experts suggest focusing on the underlying cause to keep headaches to a minimum.


Reducing Pain

Preventing headaches is not always possible, but you can take steps to reduce your headache pain. Here are a few recommendations for those who suffer from tension headaches:

  • Take breaks throughout the day to stretch and walk, every 30 minutes to one hour. This is especially important if you have a sedentary job or lifestyle.
  • Engage in low-impact exercise a few times each week. Not only does this improve your overall health, but it can also be a great way to minimize the effects of stress on your body.
  • Avoid clenching your teeth, as stress on the jaw can lead to tension headaches.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine later in the day to avoid headaches or reduce their severity.
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises, including yoga, can help reduce stress and help you decrease the prevalence of tension headaches.
  • Eat a consistent, nutritious diet to help keep your energy steady throughout the day.
  • Have a sleep routine that ensures you are getting enough restful sleep each night.
  • Avoid spending too much time on your devices. This will reduce your likelihood of getting tech neck which puts added strain on your neck and back muscles.

Talk to Your Chiropractor

In addition to following the recommendations mentioned above to help relieve stressors that cause tension headaches, have a discussion with your chiropractor. For some individuals, chiropractic adjustments or spinal manipulation can help improve spinal function that ultimately reduces stress. Your chiropractor may also provide more tailored nutrition or exercise plans to help maintain a healthy lifestyle that combats stress over time. The combination of these suggestions along with reducing your stress levels outside the chiropractic office may lead to fewer tension headaches and more productive, comfortable days.


Published May 22nd, 2019