Ease muscle tension
Tense muscles can trigger tension-type headaches. Apply heat or ice to relieve tense neck and shoulder muscles. Use a heating pad set on low, a hot water bottle, a hot shower or bath, a warm compress, or a hot towel. Or apply an ice pack (wrapped in a cloth) or a cool washcloth across the forehead.
Massage also can relieve muscle tension — and sometimes headache pain. Gently massage your temples, scalp, neck and shoulders with your fingertips, or gently stretch the neck.
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; hands in your lap.
- Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, perhaps a beach or quiet forest. Keep this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for at least 10 minutes.
- 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, your activities, how long the headaches last and anything that provides relief. The diary may help you spot patterns in your daily habits that contribute to your tension-type headaches.
Look for improvements in your headaches as you make additional healthy lifestyle changes.
July 28, 2015
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 6, 2015.
- Cutrer FM, et al. Pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of migraine in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 6, 2015.
- Your guide to healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf. Accessed July 6, 2015.
- Durazzo TC, et al. Comparison of regional brain perfusion levels in chronically smoking and non-smoking adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2015;12:8198.
- 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 6, 2015.
- Anderson CF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 17, 2012.
- Bordeaux B, et al. Benefits and risks of caffeine and caffeinated beverages. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 6, 2015.