Everyone can agree that headaches are awful. There are a number of different types of headaches, and tension-type headaches are some of the most common. They feel like a gradual onset of steady pressure or a dull ache in your head, where the pain is usually bilateral, and can be debilitating. It can feel as though your head’s in a vice. Western medicine has taught us that our first line of therapy should be over the counter pain medication, like ibuprofen, and they do work! However, we should be asking ourselves, why am I experiencing these tension headaches, and what can I do to fix the underlying issue? Know there are safe, effective, natural treatments for tension headaches.
Before you can effectively treat your headache, you must uncover the triggers. Contributing factors include stress, depression, poor posture (slumped at your desk? Riding your motorcycle to work everyday at 60+mph?). Your face, neck and erector muscle that run all the way up your back and attach to your head start to tighten, in which they lock down and create a tension headache. While these are the most common causes of tension headaches, reactions to drugs or foods, magnesium deficiency, and low neurotransmitters are also common causes for tension headaches. Luckily, tension headaches can be improved with a number of natural therapies.
One of the most common and beneficial treatments is to invest in physical medicine to help relieve tension or postural problems that are causing the headaches. We suggest massages, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and yoga as ways to improve body tension and posture. Finding a good physiotherapist that can retrain your body movements and postures to reduce postural triggers is a great place to start. The right registered massage therapist (RMT) can help loosen up and relieve tension in muscles. Foam rolling at home can also significantly loosen up fascia and muscles, relieving pain and tension. Everything is connected in your body: it’s important to consider a holistic approach.
Stress is one of the leading causes for tension headaches, and a great practice to help alleviate the pain is learning how to relax tight muscles. The first step is breathing into tension when you feel it coming up, and then focusing on relaxing those muscles. Getting up and moving around to get some fresh air or exercise can also help. Learning some relaxation techniques are effective, and can save you from the side effects of drugs. It validates the mantra behind natural therapies: that rather seeking relief from a drug, there are ways to control the headache naturally. This is not to say that using over-the-counter medications are not effective – we simply urge those who suffer from headaches and other ailments to not become dependent on a drug to relieve their symptoms.
Another piece to consider is your diet and nutritional status. Some headaches can be caused by food sensitivities or allergies, low magnesium levels, low vitamin D and other vitamins. A study conducted on Italian students showed that “supplementation with 180 mg magnesium twice per day produced a symptom reduction of 87.5%, with 100% of the patients experiencing at least a 50% reduction in symptoms,” (Murray and Pizzorno 641). Supplements to consider include:
- Vitamin D 5000IUs daily
- Magnesium 300-400mg/daily
- Fish oil, 3gms daily of combined DHA/EPA
- Grape seed extract or pine bark extract
For more information on how to treat tension headaches or other ailments naturally, you can visit our website or give Wild Women Wellness a call at (650)-271-9453.
Murray, Michael T, and Joseph E Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine. 3rd ed. New York: Atria Books, 2012. Print.