Tension headaches can start behind your eyes, at the top of your head or even at the back of your neck. Wherever they begin, they tend to creep across the rest of your head, causing a sensation of pressure and pain.
NHS Choices say two in five of us suffer from tension headaches at any one time. These types of headaches can be caused by a number of things, including dehydration, eye strain, poor posture, tiredness and stress.
If left untreated, tension headaches typically last between one and six hours, however they can last for a number of days. Recent studies show that 56% of people who suffer from headaches say they have a negative effect on their quality of life.
“Pain interferes with our ability to pay attention and remember tasks and we are only just beginning to understand the effect that pain has on our thinking.” says professor Chris Eccleston from the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Bath.
In terms of treatment for this kind of headache, NHS Choices recommend paracetamol (but warn against exceeding the maximum recommended dose). Other painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin can also be used. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory, so it can be more effective when the pain is associated with muscle tension.
Here are some lifestyle tips to help relieve tension headaches:
Give yourself a head massage
Massaging your scalp and shoulders helps to relax tense muscles which can lead to tension headaches. If you can get someone to do this for you – even better!
Exercising releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. Yoga and Pilates are ideal for this as they also work to improve your posture and reduce muscle tension.
Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches. Keep a bottle of water nearby and sip regularly. Foods like soup and stews are great in winter as they contain lots of water while being warming.
Change your mental attitude
Your mental attitude can make a big difference in your perception of pain. There are various ways you can change this, from relaxation techniques and mindfulness to breathing exercises and hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy can help you learn to relax while breaking the thought patterns that make pain feel more intense.