Simple Tips For Easing Tension Headaches

Work pressures, relationship stress and other life challenges can cause tension headaches.

When you add repetitive activities and poor posture to the mix, “the pain starts in your neck and shoulders, slowly travels up the base of your skull and then wraps around your head,” says chiropractor Dr. Andrew Bang, DC.

The following activities can contribute to tension headaches:

  • Constantly looking down at your cell phone
  • Working at a computer all day
  • Driving for hours without rest
  • Playing video games for hours
  • Clenching your jaw at night or during the day
  • Sleeping on your stomach

“These activities overstretch the muscles on the back of your neck and weaken them, increasing your susceptibility to tension headaches,” says Dr. Bang. “The second part of the problem is that using any muscle too much leads to pain and, often, spasms.”

To prevent or to ease tension headaches, Dr. Bang recommends the following:

  1. Minimize stress. Try to avoid or limit stressful events.
  2. Take breaks. Limit the time you spend looking down at your phone. Take breaks on long drives.
  3. Adjust the way you sleep. Try sleeping on your back or on your side with a body pillow and your neck in neutral posture.
  4. Exercise and stretch. Use a therapy cane or a hard therapy ball to massage out or stretch your neck and shoulder muscles.
  5. Use over-the-counter medicines. Aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be quite effective for episodic tension headaches.
  6. Consider drug-free treatment. Try massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy or acupuncture.
  7. See a dentist. If you’re clenching your jaw and getting headaches, look for a dentist knowledgeable about temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. “The right mouth guard can really help,” says Dr. Bang.