Ease muscle tension
Muscle tension can trigger tension-type headaches. If you're feeling tense, apply heat or ice to soothe sore neck and shoulder muscles. Use a heating pad set on low, a hot water bottle, a warm compress or a hot towel. A hot bath or shower may help, too. If you'd rather use ice, wrap the ice pack in a cloth to protect your skin.
Massage also can relieve muscle tension — and sometimes headache pain. Gently massage your temples, scalp, neck and shoulders with your fingertips. Or ask someone else to do the honors.
Take time to unwind every day. Try this deep-breathing exercise:
- Lie down on your back or sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap.
- Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, perhaps a beach or quiet forest. Keep this scene in your mind.
- Focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply for 10 minutes or more.
- When you're done, sit quietly for a minute or two.
Try to practice these breathing exercises or another form of relaxation every day.
Keep a headache diary
A diary may help you determine what triggers your tension-type headaches. Note when your headaches start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief. With the help of a headache diary, you may begin to notice patterns in your daily life that may contribute to your tension-type headaches. You may also note the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes.
Aug. 18, 2012
See more In-depth
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Cutrer FM, et al. Pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of migraine in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Your guide to healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Rozen TD. A history of cigarette smoking is associated with the development of cranial autonomic symptoms with migraine headaches. Headache. 2011;51:85.head_1707 85.
- Four ways to deal with stress. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/FourWaystoDealWithStress/Four-Ways-to-Deal-with-Stress_UCM_307996_Article.jsp. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Anderson CF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 17, 2012.