Tension in the scalp or brain is your body’s way of telling you something is not right. When head tension is disrupting your day it can be easier to reach for a pain killer instead of addressing the main cause. Many people experience head tension for different reasons and therefore individual symptoms may vary; however sufferers will know how debilitating it can be.
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Tension in the head appears as a constant and dull, giving the sensation of pressure, whereas a more severe form may include temporary visual or sensory disturbances, which usually strike before other symptoms occur such as queasiness and/or sensitivity to light and sound.
There are many different triggers that cause the onset; however it is important that if you do experience itto stop and ask why? Even if you are unsure of the exact cause, there are several everyday changes you can make to reduce symptoms and the rate of occurrence.
Five key considerations for natural relief
Food sensitivities play a central role. Beer, red wine, processed foods, and additive containing food products, and, for some people, even cheese can have compounds that can trigger head tension. Recognising such foods and removing them from your diet can have a big impact. Eating regular meals and wholefoods can support blood sugar balance and increase proper absorption of nutrients, reducing stress on the digestive system.
Top Tip: A daily food diary can help you recognise if your head tension is food related. Symptoms may not appear until up to 24 hours after consumption, however through documentation, you may notice a pattern.
It is important to drink enough water for a well-functioning mind and body. Recommendations suggest 0.033 litres of water per kg of body weight, which usually equates to at least 2 litres per day. Coffee, alcohol, and sugary drinks are dehydrating and ideally consumption should be avoided or reduced to decrease the risk. Sometimes the best answer for mild head tension is a couple of large glasses of water!
Top Tip: If you find yourself reaching for a cup of coffee, remember it will take an additional two glasses of water to rehydrate your body afterwards.
Our bodies respond to the increased stress in our lives by tensing muscles from the shoulders up through the spine. Exercises and stretching not only move, release, and lengthen the muscles in the body, but also help to reduce tension and focus the mind. Exercise such as Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi, create healthy breathing patterns which oxygenise and support the nervous system. Additionally, exercising outdoor and focussing on nature can do wonders for the mind. As little as 30 minutes walking outdoors can loosen tight muscles and release a flurry of endorphins. If you believe your head tension is related to back or neck strain or if such strain is limiting exercise, a visit to a registered chiropractor or osteopath to get a spinal alignment check may be helpful.
Top Tip: Placing an icepack on the area of pain, will constrict the blood vessels and can help with relieving a headache.
4. Reduce Stress
Head tension is most likely to occur during times of stress and so it is important to make time for stress-free activities and to learn how to manage your stress. It can be as easy as swapping your smartphone for a good book to read on the train or turning off the TV and playing music while you are cooking dinner. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try taking a B vitamin supplement. B vitamins support the body’s response to stress and the frequency of head tension. Magnesium supplements can support the muscles when tense and studies suggest magnesium may alter the threshold for the factors triggering a severe event, as recurrent sufferers often have low levels of magnesium in their body.
Top Tip: Lavender has a calming effect on the body so inhaling the scent of lavender can help with the tension.
Many women find head tension worsens during the end of their menstrual cycle. This has been linked to the female hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen supports chemicals in the brain that affect the sensation of pain. The fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause can cause women to have more head tension episodes; however, rising oestrogen levels during pregnancy can bring relief
Top Tip: Studies have found serious head tension sufferers have lower levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is important for reducing stress, increasing healthy sleep habits, and supporting premenstrual emotional health. If you think you may need extra support, a 5HTP supplement can be taken, to help naturally support serotonin levels.