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