Headaches are an irritating occurrence that can totally mess with your day. A tension headache is an especially common type, and stems from muscle contractions in the scalp, neck, and shoulders. Triggers can depend on your lifestyle, but these types of headaches are often a side effect of stress, anxiety, activity, or injury. Both my husband and I get them. His are usually from too many hours spent working at his desk, and mine tend to be from nearly 14 years of carrying babies around. Instead of reaching for something in my medicine cabinet as a short term fix, I relieve our tension headaches at the source with the following three simple steps.
Tension Headache Be Gone
What you will need:
- Two hot/cold packs (recommendations below)
- Essential oil blend or single (recommendations below)
- Another person who is willing to massage your neck (optional)
Step 1: Apply Heat
I know the general rule when it comes to any injury or area of inflammation is to apply ice, but stick with me on this one. The first thing we want to take care of is releasing the tightness and relaxing your muscles that are contracting and causing your headache. For that, we need heat.
If you don’t have a heat pack you can find basic gel hot/cold packs from Amazon that do the trick. My favorite type are these kind of rice hot/cold packs from Etsy. You can also order it with essential oil treatment, I recommend peppermint or lavender. If you are crafty you can make these rice packs at home. Make sure you don’t overheat your hot pack, our goal is to gently relax your muscles not burn the first layer of skin off your neck. Leave your heat pack on for 20 minutes, then set aside and move on to step 2.
Step 2: Massage with Essential Oil Blend
Now that your muscles are warm and relaxed we want to continue to release the tension in them. I am a firm believer in holistic health care and finding natural ways to relieve pain. Essential oils can be so effective for this, especially blends of essential oils. First you will need to mix your oil blend with a carrier oil, coconut oil is my top pick. The blends I recommend are DoTerra Deep Blue, or Young Living Panaway. If you don’t have a blend or don’t want to buy one (although I highly recommend it), your best alternatives are single oils like eucalyptus or peppermint. Be sure to use a therapeutic grade.
You can mix 1-2 drops of your blend with a teaspoon of your carrier oil. Then, massage your neck and shoulder area for 2-5 minutes. It is preferable to have someone else do this for you, but you can massage yourself if need be.
Step 3: Apply Ice
After relaxing and releasing the tension from your neck and shoulder muscles its time to chill out and reduce any inflammation with an ice pack. Again, I do this with a rice or gel pack. I usually keep a few of each in my freezer at all times, not just for headaches but for other muscle pain or boo-boos. Leave your ice pack on for 20 minutes.
I’ve done this step-by-step routine many times to get rid of tension headaches and the results always give me such relief. Give it a try and feel the remarkable difference at home and without having to use medication.
Tips for preventing a tension headache:
If you continue to do the same activities that cause your headaches you are bound to experience them on occasion. However, you can try these measures to reduce their frequency.
- Reduce stress. Pinpoint what is causing the stress in your life and minimize it if possible. This may mean you need to say no to certain things to prevent yourself from being over loaded, or begin practicing self care methods to help you relax, such as meditation.
- Stretch or practice yoga regularly. You can make it a habit to stretch your neck daily to keep your muscles from building up tension. A simple yoga routine is also effective.
- Take Breaks. If you spend extended periods of time working at a desk or bent over your kids’ homework as you try and help them with it, make sure you get up and move around regularly. Perhaps, you can stretch during those breaks 😉
- Get a good pillow. Some of your problem with tension headaches could stem from your sleep position. Make sure you have a quality pillow that supports your neck.
- Get enough sleep. Being too tired can add to stress, which is a major factor for muscle tension.
- Use this 3-step method for maintenance. The same method to relieve your tension headache can also help you to prevent future ones. Repeat the three steps above once or twice a week as a regular self care practice.