So many people believe headaches are normal. We’re sorry to inform you, but headaches, of any kind, are not normal and you don’t have to “put up with them” or “cover them” with pain pills. Even though there are many types of headaches, this article will focus on how to catch and stop a tension headache.
You really aren’t feeling it today – work seems to just be multiplying by the minute. Your boss is asking questions that you’re just not 100% sure the answers to. And don’t even get me started on the commute this morning! Does it surprise you at all that you’re in the middle of a headache?
Types of Headaches
When focusing on how to catch and stop tension headaches, it’s important to know how they typically feel.
When looking at the chart below, you’ll see clearly several types of headaches separated into different categories. It’s important to know that headaches are not all created equally. So knowing the signs and symptoms of common headaches in comparison to what you’re currently experiencing can help with getting proper treatment with stopping them.
Common headaches include headaches stemming from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), basically where the jaw connects with the skull, sinus, cluster, tension, migraine and then headaches related to the muscles, bones, and ligamentous structures in the neck (cervicogenic headaches).
Since we’re spending a bit of time talking about how to catch and stop tension headaches, we should talk about the fact that tension headaches are common. They typically are known to feel like a tight band wrapped around your head, from the front all around to the base of the skull, the occipital area. This band seems to be putting pressure on the head and feels like it’s squeezing the head from the outside in.
Just think of how it feels to wear a baseball hat that is too small for your head. This hat keeps squeezing too tightly and if you don’t take it off, eventually, you’re going to feel tension, stress, basically really uncomfortable!
Underlying Cause of Tension Headaches
Tension is just a nice way to say stress. And we’re fortunate to have bodies that utilize a stress response as a way to protect itself. Even if we have a high-stress tolerance, our bodies do a great job taking the responsibility of dealing with our stress.
Causes of Stress
The best way to stop tension headaches is to analyze your behavior. If you deal with stress in an unhealthy way, it can transition to tension headaches. Here are some common causes that may be triggering your tension headaches.
- Tension in the muscles of the face, jaw, and neck (clenching the muscles)
- Spinal misalignments, primarily of the neck and upper back
- TMJ disorder – you’ll notice your jaw clicking or popping
- Arthritis of the neck
- Depression and anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Stress itself
- Text neck
- Bad posture – desk work, sitting in the car or on our couch
Why Does Seeing My Chiropractor Help?
We commonly see tension headaches are a reason for people to seek chiropractic care. But how do people get tension headaches from their spine, when tension headaches are related to stress?
Stress doesn’t mean just emotional, mental or environmental. Stress can be related to the postures we’re in every day. Our bodies take on gravity 100% of our lives, so it makes sense that gravity impacts the spine as well.
What are the Bones Doing?
A misaligned vertebrae (spinal bone) irritates the spinal nerve that exits from that area. These nerves send “warning signals” to the muscles of the neck that are irritated.
Once these muscles receive this warning signal, they tighten up. The muscles may even spasm in order to protect the misaligned bone.
The irritated nerves also send signals to the muscles of the scalp and head – which again, respond this time by tightening up.
The reaction here is basically creating a chain reaction of a muscle spasm around the head.
The pesky tension headache!
How Can I Stop My Headache?
There are plenty of steps you can take in order to combat tension headaches. The below recommendations are home remedies that are recommended by Mayo Clinic.
- Eat healthy foods (+ don’t skip breakfast)
- Drink enough water!
- Exercise regularly (at least a bit of daily activity 10-20 minutes of aerobic walking can have a major impact on your day)
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid excess caffeine (400mg+/day aka 4 cups of regular coffee, 2 of the 2oz 5 hour energy drinks, or 2 energy drinks in general, can trigger headaches and irritability)
- Quit smoking – nicotine reduces blood flow to the brain and can trigger the reaction of nerves at the back of the throat leading to a headache
- Monitor stress
- Heat or ice shoulder and neck muscles
- Massage temples, scalp, neck and shoulders with fingertips
- Unclench your jaw
- This one is ours… but schedule your next chiropractic appointment!