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5 Lifestyle Ways to Prevent Tension Headaches

5 Lifestyle Ways to Prevent Tension Headaches

Sometimes the mere thought of looming deadlines and the seemingly never-ending demands on your time can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Before you know it, you feel that pain at the back of your head or your temples and forehead – another tension headache.

Nine out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches. Wouldn’t it be great if you could prevent headaches from starting in the first place? Here, Brian Murphy, DC, MS, and the chiropractic specialists at Stamford Spine in Stamford, Connecticut, offer some lifestyle tweaks to help reduce the risk of tension headaches.

Tension headaches explained

There are many types of headaches, but they all fall under two main categories – primary and secondary.

With a primary headache, the headache itself is the main issue. In contrast, secondary headaches are a function of another underlying medical condition where a headache surfaces as a symptom. Examples of secondary headaches include sinus headaches, headaches brought on by trauma like a head injury, or a headache that’s triggered by a sudden spike in blood pressure.

Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache. Over 70% of the general population experiences episodic tension headaches. Nicknamed "hatband" headaches, tension headaches trigger pain in the temple and forehead areas and the back of the head.

While there isn’t one cause, stress or emotional conflict are typically mitigating factors for tension headaches. As a tension headache develops, it leads to muscle tension in the neck area, which sometimes radiates to the upper back and scalp. 

Proactive ways to avoid tension headaches

Though conflict and stress are unavoidable in life, it’s possible to manage those moments so you can reduce the risk of developing tension headaches. 

Here are five things you can do to help:

1. Get up and get active

Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is a great way to combat tension headaches. Get off the sofa, and step away from your desk — or don't stay in a fixed position for more than 30 minutes at a time. Working in a few stretches or light movements in your neck and shoulders throughout the day will keep your muscles from tensing up. 

If you expect extended periods of stress at work or home, plan some extra walks or exercise at the gym to counteract the stress. Regular exercise is a natural way to kick stress and anxiety to the curb.

2. Button up your sleep habits

Similarly, when you’re more active, you sleep better. Since sleeping allows your body to heal, reset, and restore, getting a good night’s sleep can help you manage stress better.

Your sleep habits should involve going to bed at the same time every night of the week, including weekends. Make your bedroom a haven for rest by keeping it dark, quiet, and free of electronic devices like laptops, tablets, and cell phones. 

3. Drink plenty of water

Nearly all systems in your body rely on water to operate optimally. While hydration may not prevent every tension headache, dehydration can exacerbate the pain when you get one. 

Start your day with a glass of water, and continue drinking water throughout the day. If you aren’t a fan of plain water, spice it up by squeezing a lemon, lime, or orange in your glass. 

4. Choose massage therapy to reduce muscle tension

Here at Stamford Spine, our highly trained massage therapists use techniques such as trigger point massage in the head and neck area to address tension headaches. This massage technique loosens tense, contracted muscles, allowing blood to flow freely to the affected area, which relieves pain. 

Periodic massage therapy not only addresses pain and muscle tension but also reduces stress and can even boost your immune system.

5. Consider chiropractic care to reset and restore

You may be familiar with chiropractic adjustments to reduce pain, but the premise behind chiropractic care is that when you address spinal misalignments, you also address stress on your system. 

Your spine performs a key role in your body’s central nervous system, which regulates hormones that affect things like your mood, your weight, and how well you sleep. When your spine becomes misaligned, it throws everything off balance, including your stress response. 

Chiropractic adjustments allow your spine to come back into balance, which not only relieves pain but also affects how well you manage stress. 

If you experience tension headaches, book a consultation at Stamford Spine to learn how we can help you find relief. Contact us today.  

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