Tension headaches are commonly referred to as stress headaches. They can be periodic or can be more constant in nature. People often describe them as a mild to moderate, constant band-like tightness, or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck. They can last a few minutes or can last days. People don't often get the visual changes that other headache types can create. How do you stop them?
Sometimes the cause of Tension headaches is unknown. However, they can be caused by tightness in the muscles in the upper back and neck. This is similar to the cervicogenic headaches in the last post. The muscular tightness can be caused by:
- Poor posture
- Not enough rest
- Family problems
There has been a lot of research done on the effect of prolonged stress on the body, over and above headaches. Our bodies do not function well when under constant stress. It begins to break down and that’s when you develop all sorts of health issues. The key point to consider here is to find out what may be causing your tension type headache and then go about reducing it. This may be making a change to avoid the stress or do something that will allow you to better deal with it, such as meditation, exercise, yoga etc.
If there has been physical changes from the stress then you need to address it.
This is where chiropractic care can be beneficial. If you have tension and tightness in the shoulders and upper back, the spine stops functioning well and you develop problems associated with this. By restoring proper function to the spine, the muscles will be able to relax and your body will work better. If you think about a stressful time, you often find that your shoulders raise and the muscles start to tighten. You then develop upper back and neck tightness and stiffness. You may hear people say, “I carry my stress in my shoulders’”.
Working the soft tissue in the upper back will also be beneficial.
Heat, massage, stretches etc will all help reduce the muscular tension. I would suggest trying this. I always give people advice on this type of ‘home help’ care when I see them in the clinic to help speed up the healing process and help reduce the risk of flare ups.
Try this simple breathing technique.
A simple way to try and relax is by diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing slowly into your diaphragm can shift you out of the sympathetic (stressed) state into the parasympathetic state (your rest and digest state). A simple technique I learnt is called tactical breathing. It goes like this:
- Breathe in through your nose into the diaphragm for 4 seconds.
- Hold the breath in for 4 seconds
- Breathe out through pursed lips for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath out for 4 seconds
- Repeat 4 times
If you suffer from tension headaches, try the advice above and see if it helps. If you would like a chiropractic assessment, call the clinic on 09 413 5312 to book an assessment and adjustment, your body will thank you for it.
Table adapted from www.physiopedia.com