Tension headaches are common. During a tension headache, there may be muscle pressure or tightness or dull pain around the head. Tenderness may be experienced on the neck or shoulders.

Tension headaches aren’t associated with nausea, visual disturbances, slurred speech, abdominal pain or weakness on one side of the body as with migraine.

Changes in brain chemicals involving nerve pathways to the brain such as endorphins and serotonin may be key factors that contribute to tension headaches. These fluctuations may result in overactive pain pathways to the brain.

Tension headaches may be brought about by jaw clenching, food allergies, neck tension, anxiety, bad posture, stress or depression.

Some self-help tips to help ease your tension headache:

  • Take your index finger and lightly tap right between the eyes.
  • Eat a banana for the potassium.
  • Put your hands in cold water and leave for 5 minutes.
  • Take a little peppermint oil, and dab across the top of your lip, directly underneath your nose.
  • Reach around the back of your neck on the side of the discomfort with your index and middle fingers. Touch the bottom of your skull, bend your head slightly down, letting your fingers slide down the neck muscles.
  • Take a glass of hot water, add salt to taste and drink slowly.
  • Gently pull your hair around the area where your head is hurting.
  • Wearing nothing on your foot, pull your big toe backwards and run your finger along the arch of your foot. You will feel a tendon that is pulled tight when your big toe is flexed backwards. Massage up and down the length of that tendon (with the big toe flexed backwards) using peppermint oil. Do this on both feet.
  • The natural sugar and aspirin in an apple may help.
  • Press the web between your thumb and index finger on both hands.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take both palms and rub your forehead with pressure in circles. Then using your fingertips go counter-clockwise and clockwise and then opposite for about 5 minutes.
  • Drink lavender tea.
  • Make a herbal tea from feverfew and skullcap.
  • Put an iced cloth or wheat bag on the back of your neck.
  • Rub in to your temples or inhale Vicks vapour rub.
  • Take 2 capfuls of apple cider vinegar, add to a glass of cool water and sip slowly.
  • Press down hard on the area above the bridge of your nose between your eyebrows for about 15 seconds then slowly release.
  • Lay or sit down with a cooling eye mask on.

Seek medical attention if you experience a headache following an injury, abrupt or severe headaches, progressive headaches precipitated by sudden movement or a headache with fever, double vision, stiff neck, weakness or speaking difficulties.