The typical go-to recourse for headaches is medication, either over-the-counter or prescription. People who have chronic headaches may be prescribed a medication to use daily as a preventative measure, a curious choice for tension headaches, given that muscle tension is generally recognized as the cause. When there are natural ways to prevent and alleviate muscle tension, why incur the health risks and price tag associated with medication? Consider the following two tips for preventing and relieving tension headaches naturally.
1. Avoid forward head posture.
Forward head posture may be the most common postural dysfunction today due to the popularity of mobile devices. Most people hold their iPhone or other device at waist- or chest-level and drop their heads down to view the screen. Given the amount of time people spend on their devices for work, socializing and gaming, this posture can become integrated into muscle memory and wreak havoc.
While the effects of forward head posture can extend throughout the torso, its primary location of impact is the neck. As the head juts out past the body’s center line, the muscles in the neck have to work extra hard to stop it from dropping down completely. This tension can result in headache.
When using a mobile device, bring it up to eye-level and take care to keep your head centered over your shoulders. A good way to ensure this is to keep your shoulders pulled back, low and loose; this will help prevent your head from coming forward. Also be aware of your head and shoulder position while using a computer or reading a book, other activities that can encourage forward head posture.
2. Practice self-myofascial release on your neck.
When neck muscle tension occurs from stress, posture, poor sleeping position or an awkward movement, simple stretching may not be enough to relieve it. Self-myofascial release (SMR) can be used both on a daily basis to prevent headache-causing tension and as a breakthrough method to relieve tension fast. The massage technique can be practiced simply by placing a hard object between the floor and the muscles you’re trying to target.
For the neck muscles, you may use the raised ends of two small hand weights, two golf balls or any other hard, round objects. Place them spine-width apart on the floor, then lie on them so that they are applying pressure to your tense neck muscles. It’s a good idea to roll along the entire neck, stopping on spots that feel knotted or particularly tense for at least 30 seconds to apply deep, steady pressure. Targeting muscles close to the skull may be especially helpful for headache relief.
While medication may be necessary for some, many headache sufferers may be able to find natural headache relief by simply minding their posture and practicing the self-massage technique described above. Pursuing natural methods of muscle tension relief when muscle tension is the cause of headache makes sense, saves money and spares you the risks of medication.