TEN STEPS TO RELIEVE A TENSION HEADACHE
Symptoms of a tension headache are dull to medium pain on both sides of the head, with tightness around the forehead, like a cap or tight band around the head, and often include tension in neck muscles and shoulders. Tension headache is the most common form of headache.
[Note: If you have anything like a migraine or cluster headache - or if your headache came on suddenly and strongly or it woke you up in the morning, or your headaches are increasing in intensity, or you recently bumped or injured your head, if you experience tension headaches frequently or on a daily basis, we strongly advise you to see your doctor without delay. Headaches can be an important sign of serious medical problems or a component of clinical or chronic depression. These conditions require professional medical and/or psychological treatment. We urge you not to delay getting the proper treatment your condition requires. ]
The following process is for a tension headache only (and might help if you're overtired). But if your headache comes from another source - such as you're coming down with a cold or some other illness, you've got an allergy, or you're in caffeine withdrawal or you've got a serious medical condition, perhaps a migraine or cluster headache or other serious medical or psychological condition (such as clinical or chronic depression) or you're addicted to pain killers - then this system won't help at all. It's directed solely at the occasional tension headache.
[NOTE: CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL HEADACHE. This is a "killer" (hurts!) headache that comes on because you haven't had your usual fix of caffeine. The good news is it's easily cured. Simply ingest something with caffeine in it immediately - such as a cup of coffee or tea - caffeinated coffee or tea - not decaffeinated, which won't help you much. Voila! Your headache should be gone in ten to twenty minutes. You could also take an aspirin or other pain killer. Might help - but the key thing is getting some caffeine into your system.]
Most of us know how bad a tension headache can be - it hurts - it aches - it pinches - it grabs and clamps tight - and it won't let go! It's throbbing, pounding, cruel and unrelenting pain that can make you feel sick all over. It's truly awful - insufferable - unadulterated misery. If only it would go away! Here are some things you can do to encourage your headache to go away. (At least this is how I do it....)
Absolutely the first thing - Take an aspirin or an ibuprofen tablet such as Motrin or Anacin or Bufferin - right away - now - immediately - without delay - as these pills have ingredients that help to shrink the swollen vessels that are contributing to your headache. They actually help your blood to flow more easily - and that's good! [Aceteminophen (as in Tylenol) works in a different way.] The sooner you take a pain reliever like aspirin or ibuprofen, the sooner you can start to get some relief.
[Naturally if there is a medical reason - or a possible other reason why you should not take such medication - then of course don't take them. There are other things you can ingest too, such as HERBAL TEAS (see below).]
If at all possible, lie down in a dark, quiet environment, close your eyes and try to relax. If this is not possible, do the best you can with your situation that most closely resembles lying down in a dark, quiet place - even if it means simply resting your head on your folded arms as you sit at your desk and closing your eyes - or finding a couch to lie down on, or slouching into the most comfortable chair you can find.
Start sipping very cold, ice water - that is, water with plenty of ice in the glass. Place the glass next to where you're lying down or sitting and sip it frequently. Occasionally put your cold fingers - or a cold cloth with some ice in it - against your forehead - just to cool it down.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, nice and deep, feel your lower diaphragm expand while you count up to 8 and think 'Relaxation - I am breathing in Relaxation...'
Gently blow the air out your pursed lips - very slowly - long and drawn out - counting down from 8 - and think "Tension" - I am releasing all Tension...."'
Do it again. Deep breath in through your nose, counting up to 8 - 'I am inhaling Relaxation...'
Let it out slowly, through your pursed lips - counting down from 8 - while you think, 'I'm exhaling Tension...'
And one more time - for a total of three deep, long breaths, counting up to 8 - and back down to one - inhaling Relaxation - exhaling Tension.
Do as thorough a muscle relaxation as your circumstances permit. Here's one form. Lie on your bed - (If you're limited to sitting in a chair - that's fine - this will still work for you...) - straight - on your back, preferably without a pillow, so you're in a nice straight line - not rigid - very relaxed - hands resting by your side. Then, while lying on your back, your hands gently at your side, (or sitting in your chair)you're going to relax each muscle group in your body.
Start by focusing on the muscles in your left foot. First tense up the muscles in your left foot - scrinch up the foot... Hold for a moment and release... Then scrinch up, hold for a moment and release the muscles in your right foot. Then your legs - tense up the muscles in your left leg - hold for a moment - and relax...And your right leg - tense - hold - then relax... And work your way up to your thighs - squeeze each muscle, hold for a moment, then relax it - just let it go - and slowly, gently continue working your way up your body - tensing and relaxing every group of muscles - your stomach, your buttocks, your chest, your arms, your neck, your chin, your face, your forehead, your scalp - ‘til you get to the hair on top of your head.
Then reverse direction and work your way back down to your feet - muscle group by muscle group - tensing and relaxing - all the way down your body.
If you do this properly (thoroughly), by the time you get back down to your feet you should feel essentially soft as butter.
Then, with your eyes still gently closed, draw your focus towards the bridge of your nose - and say to yourself - "I am relaxing...I am relaxing and releasing this headache...' I am fully releasing this headache... I am relaxing and fully releasing this headache...'
Now that you're more physically relaxed, search your mind for reasons why you have this headache - all the reasons - conscious reasons and unconscious reasons. You can try completing this sentence as you search your mind: I've got this tension headache because:... And go over every possible reason - such as, I didn't get enough sleep last night; I'm under too much pressure; I'm angry with my mate - or boss - or lover - or sister - or someone else important or close to you; I'm worried about money - or my business or job - or my children; I'm dreading my family or in-laws showing up for the holidays; I am full of rage at (fill in the person or situation)... I hate it when (so and so) does (such and such)... You get the idea.
WRITE IT DOWN
If you can write these things down, that might help you get these issues more externalized from your system - as opposed to staying tight within you - where they're causing you pain. Think of your problems as poison to your system - and you need to get rid of that poison to get rid of your headache. Of course you can't get rid of your problems so easily - or you would have done that. But you can externalize them to some extent - by bringing them to the surface - and maybe by writing them down. It gets them out of your system as you put them onto paper.
SEARCH YOUR MIND
Then, search your mind for more reasons - hidden reasons. You might try completing this sentence: I am also upset because of these more hidden reasons (or more detailed reasons): I don't want to admit my marriage is in trouble; I don't want to admit I hate my job - or feel it's a dead-end - I don't want to admit that I hate my in-laws; or that I feel rage about a certain situation - or at a certain person, etc. - whatever the hidden things are that might be bothering you - upsetting you. You want to ferret those out - so you can get the "poison" out of your system - so you can RELIEVE yourself of your pain....
Once again, take three deep, long, breaths - Inhale Relaxation... Exhale Tension...Again - Inhale Relaxation - deeply...Exhale Tension - completely... And one more time - Inhale Relaxation - all the way to your lower diaphragm - And fully Exhale Tension....
Now, you're going to talk to yourself in a positive, helpful way - like a good parent or counselor might - the good parent or counselor within you: You're going to say things to yourself such as: I understand why I have this headache - and now I'm relaxing so this headache can go away. I deserve to be painfree - I don't deserve to be in this pain... I am working out my problems - I am helping myself by working out my problems and releasing the pain in this headache... All the positive things you can think of to say to yourself to give yourself comfort and support in letting go of this pain...
CREATE A PLAN
If there are things you can think of to do that will help with whatever situation is causing you tension and upset, think of those things - create a plan for yourself to follow - a plan that will help get you out of the situation that is bothering you - or will help get it resolved - such as you'll have a talk with your spouse or boss or partner - when appropriate - about the problem - to come up with ways you can both handle the situation constructively. If you're up to it, get up and write these things down - create a written plan to help you cope with your problems or troublesome situation.
You will not feel a lot better if you come up with a plan of action that is not constructive. For instance that you'll really tell that person off. Or since he or she humiliated you in front of others - you'll do the same back. Such plans are usually not helpful. It is better to plan to discuss the problem - or - if the person is unworkable - perhaps the best plan is to figure out how to get away from that person and associate with more workable people.
If there's no way out of your problem that you can see, come up with coping actions you can do - people you can consult who can comfort you or offer suggestions you hadn't thought of. Write these plans down so you can start doing them as soon as practical. And also so that you'll feel better - more in control - like you're taking concrete steps to help yourself. That always feels good. Because it IS good.
Or perhaps therapy is called for. That can be part of your plan - you'll seek therapy. For information about SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP go to our segment.
After you've developed a plan of action that can help you either relieve your problem - to some extent - or resolve your problem in a constructive manner, or cope with it as best as possible - you're going to release the tension that is creating your headache.
Again take three deep, long breaths, inhaling - what?... - Relaxation - of course. And exhaling, what? - Tension, of course. (Don't get them mixed up and start inhaling tension while exhaling relaxation!...)Excellent.
PICTURE A TRAP DOOR
Now you're going to picture a little trap door at the top of your head. Just a plain ordinary trap door on the top of your head. Now open that trap door and let all the tension within you fly out of your head. Can you picture it? All the tension is being released - out into the air - out of your system - away from you - you're releasing that tension - you can picture it being released - just picture the tension oozing out of your head - or flying away from you - or rushing out that trap door - evaporating into thin air - out of your head...
Here is an Affirmation to help you release that tension. [Affirmations are positive statements you say outloud (if possible), softly - to yourself - in order to plant positive ideas into your brain where your system can integrate them, and you can eventually automatically follow these statements with actions.]
Simply read each statement - slowly - gently - distinctly:
I am relaxing now -
I am allowing myself to relax now -
Every muscle in my body is relaxing now -
I am feeling more and more relaxed;
I am allowed to relax -
I am allowing myself to relax -
I am releasing all tension within me, now -
I am allowing all tension within me to fly away -
I am opening the little trap door on the top of my head and I'm allowing all tension to fly away from me -
I feel myself relaxing more and more -
With every breath I take in I am relaxing -
With every breath I let out, I am releasing tension -
My shoulders feel better, because they're more relaxed now -
My neck and jaw feel better now, because they're more relaxed -
As my muscles relax, my head is feeling better -
My head is feeling better and better - I can sense the tension flying away from me -
My head feels more and more relaxed -
I feel less and less tense -
I am feeling more calm -
I feel more and more calm -
I am calming down and relaxing -
I don't need this headache -
I am allowed to release this headache -
I am allowing myself to release this headache -
The headache is going away from me -
I am releasing that headache -
My head feels better already -
My head feels good -
My head feels clear and free of pain -
I am thinking of things I look forward to now -
There are many things I look forward to -
My headache is gone -
I am very relaxed and my headache is gone -
I feel good - and my head feels good -
I am happy to feel so relaxed and good -
I enjoy being tension-free -
I feel good and free...
When you feel ready, get up and do something completely different, if possible - preferably something fun and relaxing - like, take a walk - go shopping - call a friend who makes you laugh - see a movie that can take your mind off your troubles - or turn on tv - listen to music - anything that's likely to cheer you up and change your thoughts and consequently what I think of as your brain chemistry.
Now you may have done all ten of these steps correctly - perfectly - and still that headache's with you - because that's how headaches are - they're stubborn things - they like to stick with you. Keep re-working these ten steps - over and over again - in whatever order you wish.
Keep sipping the ice water and cooling your forehead - Then go over your Relaxation Breathing - And your muscle relaxation again - group by group - from your feet up to your head - relaxing every one of them - from bottom to top and then from top down to bottom.
Keep going over your reasons for being tense and upset - trying to get closer and closer to the root issue that's disturbing you - and trying to understand why it's disturbing you...
Keep working on things you can do that will help relieve the situation that's creating this tension for you or that can resolve it - or give you comfort and support while you're stuck with it.
THREE DEEP BREATHS
Every once in a while take three deep breaths again - 'Inhaling Relaxation' and 'Exhaling Tension' - Sip your ice water again. Try to fall asleep - even if only for a few minutes.
You might also try a hot shower or bath. If the hot shower is aimed at tense muscles - as in your neck and shoulders - it might be especially helpful.
[My father would sometimes get severe tension headaches. He learned that if he could just get into a hot shower for maybe 20 minutes, he could work it out of his system. J.]
If your headaches persist, or are daily, or chronic, or are excessively painful, or came on quite suddenly, especially in the morning, and very painfully, we strongly advise you to consult a doctor, without delay. There are many important and serious conditions that can lie behind a headache that require medical attention, some of them serious.
HERBS & HERBAL TEAS GOOD FOR CURING A TENSION HEADACHE
[Of course we caution you before taking any herbal preparation. Herbs can be potent, can have side effects and can interact with other medications you're taking. Do consult with your doctor before taking. If you're pregnant, especially important to avoid taking anything without consulting your doctor.]
White Willow Bark
[For migraine, try Fever Few capsules.]
GENERAL ADVICE ABOUT AVOIDING TENSION HEADACHES
Keep a regular schedule. Try to get adequate sleep.(We ourself sometimes get a killer headache if we've had too many nights of insomnia.)
Exercise regularly. Very important.
Eat healthy foods. Also important.
Avoid fatty and sugary foods.
Keep your weight at a healthy level.
Stop smoking! (Smoking and drinking are closely linked to cluster headaches.)
Never use alcohol to medicate yourself for any condition.
Do not get into the habit of taking pain killers every day. This can have terrible consequences and can make your situation worse rather than better.
Avoid these trigger foods, (especially if you may be having migraine headaches): Chocolate, msg, aged cheese, chicken livers, citrus fruits, red wine, caffeine beverages (note: caffeine can help a headache as well as be a trigger), nitrite preservatives often found in smoked and processed meats, Aspartame (Nutra-Sweet) and some prescription medications.
Try to relax. Include regular relaxation activities in your life. Consider learning meditation and other relaxation techniques so you can practice them regularly. Also massage therapy (by a licensed therapist), accupuncture, hypnosis, biofeedback techniques and chiropracty may help.
Try to have balance in your life - between work and fun - professional life and personal life.
Deal with emotional problems that are upsetting you. Consult a therapist if necessary or advisable. Get proper medical treatment when required.
A visitor to iSleepless.Com wrote us to say that she has gotten relief from her headaches through treatment by a Reflexologist and through reading a book that she recommends: "Healing at Your Fingertips" by Mildred Carter and Tammy Weber. She says the techniques in the book were very helpful to her.
Good luck. And Sweet Dreams...
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