Natural Remedies for Tension Headaches

Almost everybody experiences headaches, but the most common form of headache among adults is the tension-type headache, which was earlier known as the tension headache. Such headaches typically last for about 4-6 hours; however, its duration is also known to extend for long periods.

The pain of tension-type headache is generally felt around the eyes, neck, and the head. One feels a constant pressure on both sides of the head, and the degree of pain could vary from being mild to severe.

Tension headache could be due to stress, muscle tension, or sleep deprivation; else it is caused by hunger, bad posture, and even eyestrain. For tension headaches that are frequent or chronic, amitriptyline and other medications are generally prescribed, but for occasional tension headaches even over the counter analgesics like paracetamol and ibuprofen are used.

It is found that over use of these medications and even combinations of analgesic and sedatives sometimes worsen the headaches or have disturbing side effects. On the other hand, medications only reduce or relieve the symptoms temporarily but do not cure the tension headache, as over a period they lose their effectiveness.

For this reason, many people prefer natural remedies like herbs, home remedies, lifestyle changes, and alternative medicine like acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic and other treatments. Some of them are described below:

Physical Therapy

Tension headache is mostly due to a strained muscle or muscle tension. The best way to seek relief from the muscle tension is stretching exercises. If back and neck stretching is done when having a headache, it not only helps to relieve the tension but also improves flexibility.

There are ancient therapeutic exercise like the Chinese Lian Gong techniques and Indian Yoga, both of which have plenty of movements and poses that involve and act upon the back and the neck. These exercises eventually loosen up the muscles, reduce the pain, and gradually root out the tension headache.

Herbal Therapy

The two traditional systems where the remedies are prepared from nature include Chinese Herbalism and Indian Ayurveda. Herbs form the natural ingredients, which often have multiple uses. Some of the popular herbs are willow bark that has properties of aspirin, and turmeric that has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Other herbs that bring relief from tension headaches are valerian root, fever few and passionflower.

Some examples of home remedies are applying mustard oil on the forehead, inhaling the steam created by boiled water with coriander seeds in it, using ginger in a tea, and creating other forms of herbal tea.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Warm steam and water have the potential to relax the muscles and thus relieve the tension within them. One good way to have a hot water massage is soaking the full body in a hot tub. Other options are using sauna and steam rooms in a gym or a spa, or the home available options like a heating pad or a hot-water bottle.

Even application of ice over the tensed muscles can help ease the tension headache. One can even cloth-wrap an ice pack and then put it on the skin. The use of either the hot or the cold option for relaxing the muscles depends on the individuals’ choice.


Acupuncture works on the principle of unblocking the invisible energy channels or pathways of the body by using acupuncture needles.  One theory suggests that natural pain-relieving opioids are released or the brain receives a signal to release the pain reducing neurotransmitters and hormones when the acupuncture needles are used to release the blocked energy.

Acupuncture; however, has its own share of side effects like bruising, soreness, temporary tiredness, or even bleeding at the needle location – the needles generally causes little pain or discomfort.


This is the most popularly sought alternative natural remedy for tension headache. In it the health care professionals generally focus on the neuromuscular aspect and spinal manipulation. This way the joint positions of the spinal cord are restored, relieving the muscle pain and tightness.

Chiropractic techniques also release the pressure from the surrounding nerves, thus allowing the tissues to heal and reduce the pain.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a bit costly if received from a professional. It involves applying pressure on the muscles and the soft tissues of the body. Massage therapy has the ability to squeeze out the tension from even the finer muscles in the body.

Some essential oils get infused into the blood stream when they are massaged onto the body or even added to the bath. The three main oils that act as a natural painkiller are Clary Sage, Roman Chamomile, and Lavender. When the fragrances of these oils are breathed in, their anti-inflammatory properties trigger the central nervous system to favorably act on the tension headache. This therapy is also known as aromatherapy.

Sleeping in the right posture, never skipping meals, deep breathing, positive thinking, bio feedback, and behavior therapies are also some of the easy remedies to release the tension headache. However, before utilizing any of the above mentioned therapies one should consult a health care professional to suggest a suitable natural remedy for tension headache.


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Harleena Singh is a professional freelance writer with a background in teaching and education. She has a keen interest in food and health related issues and can be approached through her website Checkout her blog and network with her on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

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