Time to Tackle Your Tension Headache? Top tips to headache relief

James Smith
by James Smith
Do you suffer from Headaches? Do you get tight muscles in your head, neck and shoulders? Have you found yourself sitting for hours in a poor postural position while working from home? Perhaps you’re really stressed, which is not uncommon during these challenging times.
If so, it’s likely that you’re suffering from a headache type called Tension Headache. Tension Headaches can be debilitating, incredibly frustrating, and can inhibit your lifestyle, and affect your work and family life. Headaches can worsen your mood and impair your ability to function at your best. 
It’s estimated that 84% of Australians over the age of 18 have suffered a headache in last 12 months (according to Headache Australia). And while there are over 200 types of headaches, tension headaches are the most common.
Dealing with headaches is never easy, but there are some things you can do yourself, that we recommend to all our clients before seeking the assistance of a health professional.
We know it sounds paradoxical, but try applying either a hot or cold pack to your head or neck. Ice packs have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain. Hot packs and heating pads can relax tense muscles and increase circulation.
 Try both and see which works best for you.
Don’t underestimate its effectiveness!
Try these following self – massage techniques – 
 – Rub the base of your skull in gentle to firm circles

 – Using a trigger ball, tennis ball or spikey ball, rub the area below your neck or your upper back, especially between the shoulder blades. Allow some time for effects to kick in.
 If you can’t reach the area between your shoulder blades, try leaning up against a wall with the ball between the wall and your back.
 – Get your partner, friends or family to give you a massage!

Who doesn’t love a relaxing hot bath??
 – Try a hot bath with magnesium or soda crystals. This is so underrated! Hot water is very effective at relaxing tense muscles. Why do the Japanese, Scandinavian and many European countries love hot water, spas, saunas and hot pools! It’s because they work!  When muscles are relaxed, tension is reduced and recovery is faster = Happy Camper! 

Yes we know this is boring, but prevention is far better than cure!! 
Here’s some quick tips to get your work desk set up correctly – 
1. Have the computer monitor up at eye height so your head isn’t looking down. 

2. Get a good quality chair, as best as you can afford, as it will make a difference! Also, try adding a back support behind your lower back as this will help with posture and back support.

3. If you can, get yourself a Sit-Stand desk. Changing positions regularly throughout the day breaks the cycle and gives your body’s muscles, ligaments, tendons and the discs in your lower back the break they need. Try starting with 30 minutes standing and then have a break and sit down for 30 minutes. Regularly rotating your positions throughout the working day will prevent your postural muscles from getting fatigued.  

4. Rest your feet on a foot pedestal. This is great for taking pressure off your hamstrings and calf muscles, which helps your lower back and entire posterior chain, including your neck. 

5. Include little walks in your daily routine.  This is simple! Every 30 minutes stand up for a few seconds. Go for a walk to get some water or go to the toilet. Change your position. Slouch, relax, sit up… just change your position regularly. You don’t have to sit up straight all day, that’s impossible!

Even try adding some walking meetings into your diary! 
6. Water! Water! Water! Drink plenty of water, not just coffee or tea. Keep a bottle or jug near your desk so you won’t forget to have sips. Drink what you feel comfortable with. A healthy adult should be able to drink around 8-10 cups of water a day (Australian Health guidelines). This will help reduce any dehydration issues that can set a headache off in some people.

Other useful strategies include –
1. Go for a short walk in fresh air and stretch the legs.

2. Book in a massage, particularly when all else fails!

3. Think about your posture. Are you sitting or slouching on the lounge, and are you putting pressure on your neck?

4. Consider meditation, mindfulness or breathing exercises that can break the cycle.

5. Are you getting 7+ hours of regular sleep?

A word from our Myotherapist ….
Can Massage help reduce a tension headache?
        “Absolutely! By massaging your upper back, shoulders and neck, as well as your head and jaw, Remedial massage can have huge benefits in decreasing the muscle tightness (normalising the muscle length), reducing pain and discomfort brought on by headaches, improving posture and in some cases stopping migraines
James Smith is a Myotherapist at Pathways Physiotherapy in Ferntree Gully. You can BOOK HERE for a massage with our Myotherapist.