Tension Headaches Relief: A Guide for Patients

tension headaches, upper cervical

Tension headaches are ubiquitous, and the pain can be intense. They mostly stem from tight or stiff muscles surrounding your upper cervical spine. Most patients who have it seek help from a physician, therapist, or upper cervical chiropractic doctor. If you often experience this symptom, our quick guide might help you cope better during an attack. Hopefully, by the end of the discussion, you will fully grasp tension headaches and your options for relief.


Tension Headaches Overview

Tension headaches are a usual type of headache that affect people of all ages. A tension headache is often due to muscle tightness in your upper cervical spine – simply put, your head and neck. This can happen when you're stressed, anxious, depressed, or exhausted. It can also be due to poor posture (such as sitting at a desk for too long) or slouching with your shoulders rolled forward.


More About Tension Headaches

If you have a headache that feels like having a tight band surrounding your head, then it is most likely a tension headache. Tension headache is a prevalent primary headache in adults, and they are often accompanied by other physical symptoms such as neck pain and facial tightness.

Tension headaches can be episodic or chronic: 

  • Episodic tension headaches occur on fewer than 15 days per month but may recur for several years;
  • Chronic tension headaches, on the other hand, occur more than 15 days per month for at least three months in a row, or six months with breaks.


Causes of Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with a huge percentage of people suffering from them. Experts believe that they are caused by one or more of the following factors: 

  • Stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor posture
  • Fatigue or dehydration (not enough fluids)
  • Poor diet (too much caffeine, alcohol, or processed foods)

Even if you feel like your tension headaches are caused by one or more of these things, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.


What to Do if You Have Frequent or Severe Tension Headaches

While tension headaches are not a serious medical condition, they can be very painful and interfere with your daily life. If you have frequent or severe tension headaches, seek help from a doctor. You may need to combine lifestyle changes and natural remedies to secure lasting relief from this pain. You can also avoid triggering a tension headache by steering clear of the following:

  • Stress
  • Abnormal caffeine intake
  • Smoking habits
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Sleeping on your back, stomach, or side (if you normally sleep in one of these positions)  

tension headaches, upper cervical

Natural Ways to Relieve the Pain of a Tension Headache

There are many different ways that you can treat your tension headache, but here are some simple and natural tips that will help you get rid of your pain.

#1. Relaxation techniques

Meditation and yoga are excellent for helping you relax and focus on your breathing. Focusing on deep breathing can help reduce muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.

#2. Massage therapy

Massage is another way to relieve tension headaches by loosening up those tight muscles in your neck and shoulders. It also helps release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller), altogether reducing headaches' pain!

#3. Acupuncture

If acupuncture sounds like something out of medieval times, it’s actually quite common today as an alternative treatment for pain relief that works well with chronic headaches like tension headaches. Acupuncturists will place tiny needles along specific meridians on your body that they believe contribute to the severity of your headaches. The needles can potentially stimulate the blocked meridian points and help improve your energy flow and alleviate your migraine symptoms.

#4. Aquatic Therapy

This therapy can be very effective at relieving stress and muscle tension throughout your body—including those pesky aches from tension headaches! The water allows you to work against gravity when doing exercises, which helps stretch out stiff joints without straining them further, like weightlifting would do when done incorrectly or excessively. This type of exercise also improves circulation because blood gets pumped through more efficiently than usual due to the buoyancy effect of the water. 

#5. Upper Cervical Chiropractic

This approach has helped many who suffer from tension headaches. Upper cervical care focuses on the uppermost vertebrae (the ones located at the top of the spine) and how they affect everything below them. That is because if you have frequent tension headaches, there is a huge chance of a misalignment in your upper cervical vertebrae.

The uppermost vertebrae in your neck play an important role in supporting the weight of your head and body and protecting nerves that run up through them into your brain. Suppose any part of this system is out of alignment or damaged due to trauma or poor posture habits (like sitting at a computer all day). In that case, it can lead to pain in other areas like your head or shoulders.

That's where upper cervical care comes in. It's been shown to be effective when helping patients cope with chronic pain conditions like migraines, neck pain, and tension headaches. Chiropractic care helps with pain in general, and it is gentle and safe. In addition, it improves the body's function and can also help reduce stress and anxiety.

Of all these natural ways we’ve shared, upper cervical chiropractic is possibly the most effective and holistic method, but with no side effects on your health. If you want to try this route or even just learn more about headaches, we strongly recommend connecting with an upper cervical doctor. You can easily find one through our list of credible chiropractors.


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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.