How to Relieve Tension Headaches?

As any Pain Doctor will tell you: “headaches can interfere with daily life, but healthy lifestyle choices can help you head off the pain. Start with diet, exercise and relaxation. Nearly everyone knows the pain of tension-type headaches, but the world doesn’t stop when the pain strikes. Medicines [and cutting-edge innovations such as nerve blockers], may relieve the pain. But simply taking good care of yourself may help prevent a headache” [1]

A Guide to Healthy Lifestyle Choices

There is no doubt that besides visiting a Pain Consultant in order to be given a correct tension headache diagnosis, along with a Holistic Personalised Treatment Plan; we can also rev up our overall health and help prevent headaches of all kinds (including tension headaches), by following a healthy lifestyle. So let’s take a dive into the basics:


  • Consume nutritious healthy food on a regular schedule, and do not eat late in the evening
  • Drink plenty of mineral water each and every day
  • Exercise regularly. This is extremely important, as it releases specific chemicals into the body, for the purpose of blocking pain signals to the brain. Discuss appropriate exercises that would suit you, and that you’d enjoy, with your Pain Specialist. These could include: walking, cycling, swimming, Tai Chi, and so many more. (Note: as your Pain Doctor will tell you, if you are starting a new exercise for the first time, begin slowly at first. This is because if you exercise too intensely, it could bring on some types of headache
  • Get sufficient sleep. Go to bed and wake up like clockwork, at the same time every day (including weekends). Be sure to relax prior to going to bed, by avoiding caffeine, switching off your TV and mobile 30 minutes beforehand; having a soothing bath or shower, reading a book, or putting a drop of aromatherapy lavender oil on your pillowcase. Of note, sleep apnea is a sleep issue in which someone’s breathing stops and starts during the course of the night. Discussing this with your Pain Consultant, will ensure that you are given the right treatment to ameliorate its symptoms
  • “Caffeine may help curb headaches. But heavy daily caffeine use can lead to headaches. Generally, getting more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day — more than about four cups of coffee — can cause headaches and irritability. Regular caffeine use also increases the risk of headaches” [1]
  • Stop smoking. Blood flow to the brain is impeded by the nicotine in cigarette smoke. Moreover, the nicotine sets off a reaction in the nerves at the back of the throat, thus potentially leading to a headache
  • Stress and tension-type headaches often go hand in glove. To that end, it is crucial to take some remedial action. This includes: taking regular breaks from what you are doing; getting as much fresh air as possible; going out for a brisk walk; taking in some deep breaths as you count from 1 to 10; doing a few simple stretches; playing some soothing music; not thinking  about anything negative, and maintaining a positive attitude
  • Apply a heat pad or infra-red massager to relieve tense shoulder and neck muscles. Or use your fingertips to massage your scalp, temples, shoulders, and the back of your neck
  • Do a short daily meditation session (there are many different ones available on You Tube) [1]


Keep a Headache Dairy

A Headache Diary can highlight any triggers that are associated with your tension-type headaches. Have a separate page for each day, with 24 hourly slots. Record when your headaches start, and what you were doing before, and at the time they came on. Also note how long the headaches go on for, and anything that brings relief. The Headache Diary will also be invaluable to show to your Pain Consultant on your initial and follow up online or in-person appointments.




[1]. Mayo Clinic (2022). “Tension-type headaches: Self-care measures for relief.”