Rest, ice packs or a long, hot shower may be all you need to relieve a tension headache. A variety of strategies can help reduce the severity and frequency of chronic tension headaches without using medicine. Try some of the following:
Jul. 16, 2013
- Manage your stress level. One way to help reduce stress is by planning ahead and organizing your day. Another way is to allow more time to relax. And if you're caught in a stressful situation, consider stepping back.
- Go hot or cold. Applying heat or ice — whichever you prefer — to sore muscles, may ease a tension headache. For heat, use a heating pad set on low, a hot-water bottle, a warm compress or a hot towel. A hot bath or shower also may help. For cold, wrap ice, an ice pack or frozen vegetables in a cloth to protect your skin.
- Perfect your posture. Good posture can help keep your muscles from tensing. When standing, hold your shoulders back and your head level. Pull in your abdomen and buttocks. When sitting, make sure your thighs are parallel to the ground and your head isn't slumped forward.
- Taylor FR. Tension-type headache in adults: Acute treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 26, 2013.
- Olesen J, et al. The international classification of headache disorders. http://ihs-classification.org/en/. http://ihs-classification.org/en/. Accessed April 24, 2013.
- Pluta RM. JAMA patient page: Tension-type headache. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2011;306:450.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed April 24, 2013.
- Aminoff MJ, et al. Clinical Neurology. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=66. Accessed April 24, 2013.
- Linde K, et al. Acupuncture for tension-type headache. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/view/0/index.html. Accessed April 24, 2013.
- Fumal A, et al. Tension-type headache: Current research and clinical management. Lancet Neurology. 2008;7:70.
- Daily diary. American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education. http://www.achenet.org/resources/headache_diaries/. Accessed April 24, 2013.
- Verhagen AP, et al. Lack of benefit for prophylactic drugs of tension-type headache in adults: A systematic review. Family Practice. 2010;27:151.
- Headache hygiene tips. American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education. http://www.achenet.org/resources/trigger_avoidance_information/. Accessed April 17, 2013.
- Cathcart S, et al. Stress and tension-type headache mechanisms. Cephalalgia. 2010;30:1250.
- Taylor FR. Tension-type headache in adults: Preventive treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 26, 2013.
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