Modern life can be full of triggers for tension headaches. Hours staring at computer screens, poor sleep patterns, bad posture and over-reliance on caffeine and alcohol cause up to three-quarters of us to suffer from tension headaches at some time or another. These headaches are usually felt on both sides of the head, and may feel as if a tight band is pressing on the forehead.
It’s all too easy to reach automatically for over-the-counter painkillers when you feel these symptoms coming on, but overuse of painkillers can itself cause headaches, as well as having adverse effects on the liver, stomach and other parts of your body.
Next time you are suffering from a tension headache, try one of these natural remedies. You may already have the ingredients in your store cupboard.
● Essential oils of lavender, peppermint or basil can all help provide relief. Massage your temples, forehead, and neck with a solution made from 3 drops of any one of these essential oils dissolved in 1 tablespoon of olive or almond oil. Close your eyes and breathe in the calming oils. Lavender oil is a great oil to have around the house. If you don’t have any, add it to your shopping list. As well as a headache remedy it can be used in a diffuser in the bedroom to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Take a warm footbath. Dissolve a handful of mustard powder in a large bowl of warm water and soak your feet for 15 minutes. The warmth will draw the blood away from your head to your feet and will relieve the pressure from the blood vessels in your head and neck.
Pour apple cider vinegar into a large bowl and add boiling water using 1 part vinegar to 6 parts water. Drape a towel over your head to catch the steam and hold your face over the bowl. Breathe in the scented steam for 5-10 minutes.
Ginger tea can provide relief from headaches and from nausea. Make your own by simmering one inch of fresh, chopped ginger root in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes.
A cold compress applied to the forehead can give very quick relief. Headache patches can be bought from good pharmacies. Add one to your shopping list. Alternatively, wrap a bag of frozen ice-chips or peas in a clean tea-towel and lie down with your eyes closed holding the compress over your forehead.
Things to avoid
Try to cut down on caffeine, alcohol, cheese, chocolate and foods containing MSG. These have all been shown to trigger headaches in some people. If you regularly drink coffee but miss out one day, this can trigger a headache.
Many tension headaches are caused by poor posture. Regular exercise and good sleep habits can dramatically reduce your stress levels. When you feel yourself becoming tense, make an effort to relax your shoulders and jaw. You may find it helpful to take up yoga, pilates or mindfulness to help combat stress.
Speak to your doctor if you suffer from chronic headaches or if your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms. Have your eyesight tested regularly.
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