Today I’d like to talk to you about something a lot of us experience: tension headaches. Whether you’re in the middle of a work meeting or at home making dinner with your family, there is no such thing as a convenient time to get a headache. So let’s look at what causes headaches, give you some options for treating them at home, and tell you how Elements of Health can help if your headaches are causing you to worry.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and most people know firsthand what they feel like: there is a “band-like” pressure on both sides of the head, dull, aching pain, and sometimes neck and shoulder pain from tightening muscles. Three percent of people experience chronic daily headaches, and about sixty percent experience occasional ones. Research has found that women are twice as likely to get headaches as men. Headache triggers are different for everyone, but the most common culprits are dehydration, emotional stress, irregular sleep, focusing on a screen or driving for long periods of time, poor posture, alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine use, and jaw clenching (or teeth grinding when asleep). Undiagnosed food allergies and hormonal imbalances can also cause headaches.
We’ve all heard the usual headache recommendations: drink more water, do some stretches, and reduce the light and noise in your environment. If you’re looking to add a new tool to your headache-fighting toolbox, heat therapy might be helpful for treating your symptoms. Heat causes blood vessels to open, encouraging blood flow and carrying oxygen and nutrients to tense muscles. There are also specialized nerve endings in the body called thermo receptors. When heat is applied to the affected area, these nerve endings slow down or stop pain signals being relayed to the brain. Heat therapy tends to work well with tension headaches, and sometimes helps migraines too.
There are two types of heat therapy techniques: “moist” and “dry.” Because our bodies absorb moisture quickly, moist techniques may work more efficiently. Nevertheless, trying a variety of techniques is a good way to learn what your headaches respond to. An example of dry heat would be placing an electric heating pad around your shoulders. If you prefer moist heat, you could take a warm shower and allow the water to hit directly on your neck (or wherever there is tension). Here are some heat therapy options you can try at home:
● Hot steamed towel
● Heated blanket
● Hot shower
● Heating pad
● Hot bath
● Heat wrap
● Hot water bottle
As always, remember to listen to your body when trying anything new. Make sure the temperature is comfortable, avoid falling asleep, and take breaks when you need it.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of and can’t figure out why you’re still getting headaches, get in touch with us! Whether you are ready to schedule your first consultation, or you have questions about our supplements, testing process, or naturopathic medicine in general, we would love to talk with you.
Best of luck!
Miles, Otesa. 2020. Heat Therapy. Migraine.com
Higuera, Valencia. 2020. Tension Headaches. Healthline.
Unknown Author. 2020. Tension Headaches: Self Care Measures for Relief. The Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/in-depth/headaches/art-20047 631
Unknown Author. 2014. Tension-type Headaches. Cleveland Clinic.
Special thanks to ghost rider MJ Torres.