In this video, I share with you the recommendations often use with my acupuncture patients if they suffer from tension headaches. In my book, a ‘pound of prevention’ is worth a ‘ton of cure’, but before you can understand how to prevent tension headaches, it is helpful to know what causes them and what their triggers are. But first:
What is a tension headache?
You have a tension headache when you are getting pain in your neck, your head or possibly in your scalp. Sometimes you get a little bit of pressure behind your eyes too.
How does this differ from a migraine?
With a tension headache, you can usually take some painkillers and carry on with what you are doing. But with a migraine, you are much more debilitated because you often have a sense of nausea with it, there can be sensitivity to light or you can get patterns like zigzags of dark areas in your eyes. Once a migraine starts the best way to get through it is often to just to lie down quietly and let it take its course.
Where is that muscle tension coming from?
- Some of the tension comes from your shoulders and from your back. That tightness causes a contraction in the muscles in the back of your neck and the muscles into the back of your head. That tightness, that pressure starts to press on the nerve endings which generate the pain sensation.
- Sometimes the tension comes from your face. Often from your jaw. Do you grit your teeth? Or are you creating jaw tension anywhere at all? If you are, those muscles wrap around the side of your face causing pain around the side of your head.
- Another big area of muscle tension on your face is on your forehead and between your eyes. If you are squinting, if you are focusing really hard for a long period of time, all of the forehead muscles will tighten up. They can be tightened up for potentially quite a long time. If that happens the tension will radiate around to your temples or to the top and front of your head.
This ‘tightness’ response in your body is the result of what your mind is thinking.
Tension builds up as a result of mental stress, as a result of feeling under pressure with lots of things to do. One response to that is taking this bunched up pugilistic shape in your body. It’s the sort of thing you might do as you determinedly push through your to-do list.
Another cause of muscle tension is anxiety. It could be that you are worried about your job, your partner, your kids, your parents. Anxiety creates particular patterns of tension in your body and that pattern is often this tightening forward of your shoulders so your upper back starts to ache and your neck muscles overwork.
If you worry about things quite often then you may be forgetting to do simple things like eat regularly and drink regularly. So your muscles are becoming depleted of energy and you are becoming dehydrated.
When you get these tension headaches frequently, this is a WAKE-UP CALL for you to do something about it!
….so what can you do?
Use meditation and mindfulness
- Write down any of the things that are causing you grief or tension. Just empty your head. I call this a brain dump! Write down anything and everything that could possibly be creating tension, be creating stress or acting as a worry and causing all of these tightening up physical symptoms in your body. When you write it down, that in itself can be a nice release of tension because you haven’t got it stacked up in your head anymore. It’s all down on paper.
- Spend 5 or 10 minutes doing a simple meditation. This will quieten your mind, slow down your thoughts and have the knock on effect of relaxing your body. If you want a hand with doing some meditation, then click here or on the link below this video and that will take you through to a little training programme I have written.
- After you have done your meditation, look at your notes again. What you can do to prevent with these worries, these anxieties, these causative factors that are building up tension in your body. Think about what can you do to make sure you don’t end up in these habitual hunched forward positions for long periods of time:
- Could you sit differently?
- Do you have an alarm somewhere that makes you get up a move around?
- Can you talk to someone about resolving some of these issues?
Possibly one of the solutions you might come up with is that you need to do some more exercise to release tension in your body to prevent your tension headaches. but my big recommendation is to do the meditation!!!
Meditation helps you become more mindful
When you are more mindful you will notice what you are doing and how you are feeling. For example: when you are
- focusing forward with your head sticking out
- creating a lot of tension in your neck and forehead
- starting to hunch up
- gritting your jaw.
When you notice these tensions starting to build with mindfulness you can take action to stop them.
Meditation is a brilliant, brilliant tool to help you be more mindful throughout the whole of your day and stop tension headaches from happening.
Now there is just one important thing I need to say here. If you are getting these tension headaches more often than not, then you should go and see your GP. These tips I have given here are not a replacement for having a discussion with them. You just need to make sure that there are not any other underlying problems that need sorting out.
Give the above suggestions a go and let me know how you get on. Write your comments in the comment box below, I really look forward to hearing from you!
For Further help with pain relief
How to stop Back, Leg and Bum pain (3 parts)
Part 1 – Assess how you sit
Part 2 – Assess how you stand
Part 3 – Assess your own body
Achieve more calm in your day – Try my Nine Breaths for a Calmer Mind download