Self Treatment for Tension Headaches

July 7th, 2016

A fair number of my patients come in for treatment of tension headaches. These headaches, which are aptly named, are caused by tension of the muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders. They tend to be described as a pressure or tightness across the forehead, sides, or back of the head.

The causes of tension headaches are not entirely known, but theories focus around stress (both physical and emoitional), and sensitization of the nervous system.

Fortunately for you, there are things that can be done to help them go away! If you’ve come in to my office for one of these types of headaches, then you know that adjustments can definitely help reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of attacks, but I wanted to give you a couple of exercises that you can do at home that can help you treat, and prevent tension headaches.

One of the most common muscles that I find that causes my patient’s headaches and gives them relief when they are treated is the upper trapezius muscles. I made a quick video and posted it over on the YouTube page about how to find and treat trigger points in this muscle that may be at the root of your tension headaches.

Watch it here.

The other thing that helps is to reduce tension on this muscle by improving posture. Exercises like the one I demonstrate in this other video can be very helpful in reducing postural strain in the neck and upper back which should help prevent these types of headaches.

Other things that can be done is to address ergonomic issues at your workstation, or when using your phone / laptop / tablet. You can find info on how to improve ergonmics of your computer station here, and laptop here.

When using your phone my general recommendation would be to 1) use it less frequently, and 2) hold it with both hands at the same time and at a level to where you don’t have to tilt your head down to see it.

Keep these tips in mind and you should be able to manage your own tension headaches pretty well! If they don’t seem to be responding well then come in for an appointment and we can get you treated and identify any other factors that may be contributing to your individual case.

Also keep these recommendations from the Mayo Clinic in mind when it comes to headaches:

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, seek emergency care:

-Abrupt, severe headache

-Headache with a fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness or speaking difficulties

-Headache after a head injury, especially if the headache gets worse