The kids are yelling. The phone’s ringing. And your husband’s complaining about work. This is more than just tension. You feel like your head’s in a vise and it’s getting tighter all the time.
Your body responds to stress in a lot of different ways, and one of the most common - and painful – is headaches. Studies show that as about 90 percent of headaches are caused by tension. It’s no wonder that people spend up to a billion dollars a year on over the counter pain pill such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
It is not only tension that can cause “tension headaches.” Despite the name, this type of headache can be caused by anything from muscle tension in the neck and shoulders to eyestrain, allergies, too much coffee, and jaw problems. Any one of these problems, or a combination of them, can cause a head-pounding, jaw-clenching headache.
Keep a cool head . If you act quickly, applying cold may stop a headache by constricting throbbing blood vessels and reducing inflammation that can lead to pain. The easiest approach is to put some ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrap that in a towel, and apply it where you hurt the most. Hold the ice in place for fifteen or twenty minutes. If you’re still hurting later on, you can repeat the treatment every few hours.
But warm up your muscles . Since many headaches are caused by these muscles the neck and shoulders, applying a heating pad or hot water bottle can be very helpful. Or simply take a hot bath or a long, steamy shower. When your muscles begin to relax, your headache should feel better, too.
Give your eyes a break . Headaches are often caused by nothing more than eyestrain – especially when you’ve been spending time in front of the computer or the television. Take a few minutes to give your eyes some rest – simply closing them for a few minutes can help relieve the pain. Or soak a towel in cool water, wring it out, and drape it over you eyes for few minutes.
Cut back on coffee. The caffeine in coffee can cause blood vessels in your head to contract and then dilate, putting pressure on tender nerves. if you suspect that coffee may be part of the problem, switch to decaffeinated tea for a few days to see if things improve.
But sip a little coffee when you take an aspirin . Aspirin is one of the best headache remedies you can find. To make it even more effective, wash it down with a little bit of coffee or cola. Researchers have found that caffeine works with aspirin to make it act more efficiently.
Take advantage of massage . Rubbing your neck shoulders and the base of your skull can quickly relax muscle tension, which may be all you need to stop a headache. The most relaxing massage, of course, is one that’s given by your spouse or a friend. But you can always do it yourself. Your muscles don’t care who gives the massage, as long as it helps relieve some of the tension.
Know what you’re eating . There are many foods and ingredients in foods that can cause headaches in some people. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), for example, is one of the worst offenders. Many restaurants are happy to prepare your meal without MSG, if you put in a request. Chemicals found in processed foods and smoked meats may also cause headaches. Even red wine can be problem for some people. So the next time a headaches strikes think about what you’ve been eating lately. There could be a connection.