Headaches are among the most common physician problems endured by humans. For most people, headaches are just a temporary bother that die away when you take some aspirin or get a break to unwind. However, it is estimated that as many as 45 million Americans suffer from chronic and recurring headaches that severely hinder their routine activities.
The occurrence of headaches in men and women is almost equal, and it affects people in all age groups – including the teenagers as well as the aged people.
Generally, it is believed that stress or tension headaches are triggered by too much contraction of the muscles of the neck and scalp for a continued period. Often the accessory muscles like the face and jaws are also involved in the occurrence of tension headaches.
It is believed that the actual pain emanates from long periods of muscle contractions, which results in the muscles trapping chemicals that produce pain, for instance a pain in the arm caused due to keeping the fists tight relentlessly for about five minutes. Other body parts that may also add to this pattern of headaches comprise the teeth, the temporomandibular joint and the internal parts of the ears.
When an individual is enduring a tension headache, he/ she generally experiences a steady, continuous and pressure-like pain that absorbs the entire head – right from the muscles of the neck to the temples.
Even in case of mild headaches, the temples as well as the neck and upper back muscles may possibly be aching. Sometimes, the intensity of the pain is so acute that it may disturb sleep. Such headaches are quite widespread in women during their premenstrual period and menstruation, in weary and depressed people and also those who do not have sufficient sleep.
Majority of the tension headaches are do not have any connection with any severe fundamental physical problem and fade away after some time without any medical treatment. Nevertheless, nearly all people suffering from headaches will take some medication or adopt alternative ways to ease the bother caused by the pain.
As discussed earlier, it is believed that the contraction of the neck and scalp muscles is responsible for the occurrence of tension headaches. Such tightening of the muscles occurs owing to keeping the head in an uncomfortable position for a prolonged period; or due to extreme tension activated by stress.
In addition, tension headaches may also start owing to tension of the facial muscles as a result of straining the eyes for long, grinding your teeth while sleeping at night, contracting the jaw muscles in fury, or also owing to chewing gum for an extended period.
Some of the common factors that are responsible for tension headaches include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Consuming synthetic sweeteners
- Deficient exercise pattern
- Exposure to carbon monoxide
- Fatigue, lack of adequate sleep
- Hypothyroidism and poor functioning of the adrenal glands
- Mechanical problems related to cervical spine
- Muscle tension
- Poor posture
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Root canal treatments undergone in some time back
- Sinus problems
- Temporomandibular (jaw) joint dysfunction
- Use of water contaminated with trichloroethylene (a chemical used by industries)
Supplements and herbs
As tension headache is frequently associated with augmented stress/ pressure, it is essential to replenish the micronutrients that are exhausted when one is under stress. The most vital micronutrients that need to be replaced include vitamins C and E, which are potent antioxidants; B-complex vitamins; beta carotene; and essential minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium.
In addition, magnesium (glycinate or aspartate taken in dosage of 750 mg daily) is particularly vital, as it possesses antispasmodic properties and actions. Taking a mega dosage of any multivitamin-mineral supplement may fulfill several of these requirements. Intake of omega-3 oils (in combination with a daily content of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in dosage of 350 mg and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in dosage of 250 mg) will also prove to be useful.
Taking one-and-a-half teaspoon of tincture prepared from valerian root or 200 mg of powdered valerian root (standardized extract containing 0.8% valerian root) twice or thrice every day will have a soothing result.
Similarly, taking 1.5 teaspoon of tincture prepared from passion flower or 300 mg powdered extract of the herb thrice every day will have a gentle tranquilizing and analgesic effect. Kava kava also has a soothing action when taken in dosage of 45 mg to 60 mg containing kavalactone thrice every day.
It has also been found that using capsaicin (constituent of cayenne pepper) as an intranasal instillation significantly helps in providing relief from the symptoms related to chronic as well as intermittent tension headaches.
Aromatherapy is also useful in relieving the symptoms of tension headache. Applying an aromatic blend of eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and alcohol to the forehead and temples helps to unwind the muscles of the scalp and results in a marked lessening of the severity as well as the duration of the headaches. Ideally, you need to use just about five to ten drops of both the essential oils twice or thrice daily.
Specific homeopathic remedies are also effective for treating tension headaches. However, before you use any of the homeopathic remedies mentioned below, it is important that you go through the report on the condition for which each of these medications have been indicated and use the medication that describes your set of symptoms most closely.
It is important to note that the homeopathic remedies discussed above ought to be used in the potency of 6th, 12th or 30th and taken at intervals of an hour when the pain is extreme and once in four hours when the pain is average. In case you do not get relief even after using three doses these homeopathic remedies and resting overnight, you may think of taking other medications to alleviate the pain.
Belladonna is the main homeopathic remedy for severely excruciating headaches that are intensified when there is noise, light, touch, lying down, movement, slightest shaking (in such case the hair of the sufferer also becomes sensitive to touch), and, in women, during menopause and menstruation.
Belladonna is also useful when the headache causes an excruciating pain even inside the throat. Normally, people requiring Belladonna have tension headaches at night or roughly at 3.00 p.m. The headache experienced by such people has a tendency to ease when they are sitting in a partially erect position or lying down in a dark, silent room.
In addition, the symptoms of the headache may also be eased following application of cold water or firm pressure at the affected site. This homeopathic remedy is especially indicated for headaches that occur and fade abruptly and affect the right side.
Usually, the sufferer undergoes an urgent external sensation as if his eyes will pop out. Often, the person experiencing the headache has a hot, flushed face, his eyes become glassy, he has dilated pupils and his hands as well as feet become ice cold.
Bryonia is effective for unbearable headaches wherein even the slightest movement, such as moving the eyeballs, will intensify the pain. In such cases, the pain usually occurs in the forehead and spreads throughout the head, particularly the left eye.
Any kind of jarring will worsen the pain, which normally begins in the morning and continues till mid-day. Such type of pain seems to be eased by applying firm pressure on the affected place, lying down in a dark room without slightest body movement and washing the affected part of the head with chilly water. Bryonia is the ideal homeopathic remedy for headaches accompanied by constipation and/ or indigestion.
People who require the homeopathic remedy Coffea are usually those who suffer from headaches that occur simultaneously with insomnia. This type of headaches is likely to get worse when there is any kind of noise or excitement, including good news. In addition, this remedy is also effective for treating headaches that are related to consumption of coffee.
Nux vomica is an ideal homeopathic remedy for headaches related to excessive eating or consumption of alcohol and coffee, working in stressful conditions. In this case, the headache usually intensifies when a person wakes up from sleep, comes in contact with wind or cold, and when there is any kind of light or noise.
Such headaches are eased when the sufferer is in a warm room, sitting without any motion, lying down and by applying warm substances on the affected area. People who require Nux vomica generally suffer from headaches that are accompanied by tetchiness and constipation.
People experiencing very irregular/ variable headaches, which are usually worsened following exposure to heat, owing to excessive eating of rich foods or those containing high amounts of fats, or when the sufferers are in a hot or stifling room require Pulsatilla.
This type of headaches may be eased by remaining in the open air or applying cold substances to the affected area. Pulsatilla is also beneficial for women who sometimes have headaches during the end of menstruation.
Additional things you may do
All of us experience tension headaches at some point or the other in our life, as they are an extremely common health problem. Tension headaches cause us to endure immense pain, but it can be relieved quite easily using ordinary home remedies. If you suffer from a tension headache, you may consider using some of the easy home remedies that help to provide relief from the excruciating condition.
The narrowing of the blood vessels in the region of the brain is one of the main reasons that cause headaches. When you inhale deeply, it helps to expand the blood vessels, thereby lessening the pain. In addition, you may also practice stretching exercises, as this will help in drawing out the muscles of the shoulder and the neck to lessen the headache.
Another effective remedy for tension headaches is gently massaging the area around the neck, especially the upper rear region using massage oils. Massaging helps to ease the strained muscles and, thereby, lessens the intensity of the pain.
Specific essential oils, for instance, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, sandalwood oil and peppermint oil are helpful in providing relief from headaches. Besides, these oils are aromatic and refresh the brain.
Even getting excessively involved in work may lead to tension headaches. It is advisable that you should take a break whenever you feel that your work is causing strain. You may consider drinking a cup of fuming coffee or going for a short walk outdoors. Having hot coffee will help in calming the stressed muscles and also simply alleviate the tension.
Another effective means to alleviate tension headaches is relaxing. When you have a sound sleep overnight you will feel just right when you wake up early next morning. A good sleep also helps you to loosen up the muscles of your shoulder.
In addition, you may also take a bath with warm water, as it will help in relaxing the muscles of your entire body and, thereby, alleviate strain, especially calming the mind. This, in turn, helps to lessen the intensity of the pain.
Practicing different yoga asana, a spiritual and aesthetic form of exercise and meditation that originated in ancient India, is also effective in putting off the occurrences of headaches. Provided it seems that your head will pop out due to intense pain, you may think about practicing ‘shavasana’ – it will provide quick relief from pain.
Pressure or strain is one of the main causes for the occurrence of tension headaches. Therefore, you should try to turn yourself away from it. Occupy yourself in any activity that is of interest and seek to forget that you have a headache.
If you do so, it is certain that you will soon be relieved from the tenderness. At the same time, try to develop a positive approach, as it will help to prevent tension headaches. In addition, it will enable you to encounter the worst circumstances effortlessly.
According to some, application of an ice pack in the region of the forehead aids in providing relief from headaches. Hence, in case you are employing this therapy to get relief, ensure that you are not using the ice packs for over 20 minutes at a stretch.
At the same time you should never use a pillow that it is extremely flat or soft, because using these types of pillows may cause tension headaches. Therefore, you should try and interchange the pillow to get respite from headaches.
In case you do not get relief from pain after trying all the above mentioned home remedies and even after taking a pain killer, you should necessarily seek the help of a physician in order to identify the basic reason for the headaches and also take measures to alleviate the pain.
Other beneficial herbs