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Tension Headache Relief: Best Treatment Methods

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Tension headaches are a common ailment that many people experience. This condition typically feels like there is a tight band around the head, causing discomfort and pain. Fortunately, several treatment options are available for tension headache relief. This includes Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy. Another option is taking prescribed or over-the-counter pain medications. Lastly, home remedies, such as hot and cold therapy, exercise, and massage, are also alternative treatments.

The common symptoms of tension headaches include pain or pressure on the top, front, or sides of the head, fatigue, and mild sensitivity to lights and sounds. It can be debilitating and prevent individuals from carrying out normal activities. This can negatively impact the quality of life. Hence, knowing different treatments and preventive methods can help many people. This article will present the best treatment methods for tension headaches, such as TENS, medication, and home remedies.

TENS for Tension Headache Relief

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a form of electrotherapy that uses low-voltage electric currents to alleviate pain. It delivers electric pulses, which trigger mechanisms that reduce the overall intensity of the head pain. This can trigger the pain-gating mechanism wherein the spinal nerve cells block the transmission of pain signals. It also induces endorphin production. These hormones are natural pain relievers that bind to opioid receptors.

Many people use this for various acute and chronic pain conditions besides tension headache relief. It is found in medical settings, and some also purchase personal units for home use. There are many benefits to using TENS. One of them is the massage-like effect that TENS produces using electric stimulation. This helps relax sore muscles and increases blood circulation. Doing so can help prevent some triggers of tension headaches, which are tight neck and scalp muscles.

Moreover, endorphins can help reduce inflammation, stress and anxiety and promote positive feelings. This can be helpful, especially for those who suffer from chronic headaches. People interested in TENS can consult a healthcare professional to ensure that electrotherapy suits their condition.

Advantaged of TENS Over Other Methods

  • Non-invasive: TENS does not involve invasive procedures, such as injections or incisions. This removes the risks of infections and other complications.
  • Drug-free: TENS therapy does not require the use of medications. This is ideal for those seeking to reduce their intake of headache medicines.
  • Portable: people may use TENS machines whenever needed. Since they are small battery-operated devices, people may use them in various locations.
  • Complementary: many use TENS with other treatment options for tension-type headaches.
  • Customisable: most TENS machines have adjustable settings that allow users to tailor their treatment of tension headaches according to their comfort level.

A woman closing her eyes due to a headache

Medication for Tension Headache Relief

Taking oral medications is a popular method many use for tension headache relief. There are several over-the-counter pain medicines. This includes aspirin, acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These can help reduce pain and inflammation for mild to moderate stress headaches. In particular, combining these pills with beverages with caffeine appears to improve their performance.

On the other hand, people may consult healthcare professionals for severe headaches. The doctor may prescribe strong medications, such as codeine and morphine. These types of pain medication require prescriptions because they can be highly addictive. In addition, the healthcare provider may also prescribe preventive medicines like a small dose of antidepressant medicines.

However, it is crucial to remember that there are various risks involved in taking medication. Hence, people with tension headaches must be careful when taking pain medicines. Moreover, they must consult their healthcare provider if they experience severe headache symptoms. Examples of these are fever, confusion, vomiting, and stiffness of the neck.

Risks Involved with Medication

There are several risks that individuals taking medication should be aware of. Although medications seek to treat illnesses and improve health, they also have many potential adverse effects and risks. These vary depending on the specific medicine and the overall medical condition of the individual.

Some common risks include nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Some also experience allergic reactions from the medicines. Moreover, overuse of pain medicine can lead to medication overuse headaches. These are also known as rebound headaches, and they can occur if individuals take more than a few pain relievers a week for their chronic tension headaches.

A woman experiencing a headache

Home Remedies for Tension Headache Relief

There are various home remedies that people use for tension headache relief. Firstly, hot and cold therapy. This works by applying a cold compress or a hot pack to the affected area. The heat increases blood flow to the area and relaxes muscle tension. Meanwhile, cold packs have a numbing effect, which can reduce the headache severity. Taking a hot bath or shower may also accomplish this.

Secondly, exercise can also help alleviate the tension and stress that contribute to frequent tension headaches. Exercising can trigger the body to release endorphins. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, and cycling, are simple physical activities that people can add to their daily lives. Stretching can also reduce muscle tension.

Massage therapy is another home remedy that many people use. This is because the manual manipulation of the muscles can help release the tension causing the head pain. Lastly, resting is another option for alleviating the pain. When experiencing a headache, some may benefit from simply sitting or lying down with their eyes closed.

Self-Care Preventive Measures

Individuals can take preventive measures to help reduce the frequency and intensity of tension headaches. They may practice relaxation techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises and meditation. Drinking water regularly can also help prevent daily headaches. Hence, ensuring adequate hydration is ideal.

Furthermore, avoiding foods and drinks that can trigger stress headaches is advisable. This includes alcohol, beans, cheeses, and processed meats. Excessive screen time is another headache trigger. Many practice the 20-20-20 rule to help with this. This involves staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Lastly, avoiding stressful situations can also help prevent headache disorders.


A tension headache is a type of headache wherein the person experiences pain or pressure on the front, top, or sides of their head. There are also several ways to treat this condition. The first method used for tension headache relief is TENS. TENS is a form of electrotherapy that uses externally applied electrodes to deliver electrical pulses to the body. These pulses trigger the pain-gating mechanism and the release of endorphins for relief.

The second method is through oral pain medications. Individuals may purchase over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs, aspirin, and acetaminophen. They may also consult a healthcare professional for a prescription for codeine or morphine. Lastly, home remedies. In particular, hot and cold therapy are effective methods of alleviating pain from tension headaches. Massage therapy is another home remedy many people use since muscle manipulation can help release tension and improve blood circulation.

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