Home Remedies for Tension Headaches


Tension headaches are one of the many ways that stress can affect your health, and this type of tight or throbbing head pain can be debilitating. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments you can perform at home to ease the pain.

Relieving Your Tension Headache at Home

According to the World Health Organization, tension-type headaches are more common than any other kind of head pain. They affect more than 70% of the population and plague three times as many women as men. Tension headaches can range in duration, typically lasting between two hours and several days. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the duration of your headache and get back to you daily activities.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends using over-the-counter pain medication to treat a tension headache at home but cautions that there are side effects to all medications. Before you choose an over-the-counter pain reliever to treat your headache, talk to you doctor about which product is best for you and any health conditions you may have.

The following medications can be effective:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin for example)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol for example)
  • Naproxen (Aleve for example)


Many practitioners believe that acupressure can help with a variety of health conditions, including tension headaches. According to Dr. Oz, you can use a number of different pressure points to relieve your headache.

Try this easy remedy to see if it helps:

  1. Extend your right hand. With your palm down, hold your thumb so it is lined up with your other fingers and makes a crease in the fleshy part of your hand.
  2. Using your left hand, place your left thumb on the end of this crease. Place your fingers directly opposite it on the underside of your right hand.
  3. Open your right hand.
  4. Using your left hand, pinch the fleshy part of your right hand quite hard for a period of a minute or two. Your headache may feel better.

Massage and Aromatherapy

An excellent way to relieve the pain of a tension headache is through massage. Gently use your fingertips to massage the muscles in your neck, head, and shoulders. Some headache sufferers find that massaging their temples helps to relieve the pain. You can do this yourself or have someone else massage the area for you.

Herb-infused massage oils may give you the additional benefit of aromatherapy to ease your headache pain. Some of the favorite and most effective oil scents to use for headache relief include:

  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Jasmine

Temperature-Based Relief

According to TLC, coupling aromatherapy with temperature-based remedies can also help. For many people, a cool cloth or an ice pack can help relieve a tension headache. For others, a hot compress, a bath, or a soothing cup of herbal tea does the trick. Alternating between warm and cold is another option.

If your stress headache is related to vascular problems, you can also try soaking your hands in hot water infused with essential oils.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is an effective technique for relieving a tension headache when you first feel it beginning, according to Dr. Mark Wiley. When you are under stress, you may take shallower breaths, depriving your brain of oxygen. Try this exercise to breathe more deeply and help you headache:

  1. Stand up or lie down flat.
  2. Take a deep breath, concentrating on breathing from your abdomen.
  3. Hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale.
  4. Repeat several times.

Relaxation Techniques

Since most tension headaches result from high stress levels, finding a way to relax can help alleviate your symptoms. WebMD suggests listening to music and visualizing harmonious and relaxing images. You can also try the following techniques:

  • Take a short ten-minute walk outside and breathe deeply while walking.
  • Find a quiet place to relax and meditate.
  • Take a hot shower, allowing the water to flow over your neck and back for several minutes.
  • Soak in a hot tub.
  • Stretch the muscles in your neck by gently rolling your head.
  • Lie down for a short nap.

A Word of Caution

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following conditions describe your headache:

  • Headache that is sudden or severe
  • Headache with mental confusion, double vision, seizures, difficulty speaking, numbness, weakness, fever, rash, or a stiff neck
  • Headache worsening after an injury
  • Chronic headache that gets worse after moving suddenly, coughing, or physical exertion

These may be signs of a more serious medical condition.

Message from Your Body

Although a headache is painful and even debilitating, it is also your body's way of telling to take it easy. Take a moment to listen to your body and try one of these home remedies to improve your symptoms. Chances are, you'll be feeling much better soon.

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Home Remedies for Tension Headaches