Article by – Dr Renita D’Souza
We all get tensed up with worries and stress, ending up with headache. This is tension headache. Headache occurs due to hyperactivity of head and neck structures like blood vessels, nerves and muscles which are pain sensitive.
From children to adult everyone is being stressed in their own way, tension headache has no age limit to occur. It is most commonly seen during adolescence period and majority in women.
Tension type headaches (TTH) are caused due to stress over structures of neck and head. In Ayurveda the word stress is related to imbalance of mainly Vata dosha which cause pain in tension headache.
Read related: Migraine – Ayurvedic treatment, Remedies
Causes of Tension Headache:
Mental factors causing tension headache
- Fear, phobia
- Excess anger
Physical factors causing tension type headache
- Late night sleep or night vigils
- Skipping meals
- Excess straining of sense organs – hearing loud voice, seeing minute or shining object for long time etc
- Excess computer work which strain neck muscles
- Exposure to cold wind, snow and hot sun
- Talking excessively with high tone
- Smoking and intake of alcohol
Read related – How to get rid of headache? 20 things that you should avoid
Symptoms of Tension headache
- Dull continuous pain over forehead, back of head and neck region
- Tenderness over forehead, neck and shoulder.
- Feeling of heaviness or pressure over scalp.
Tension headache can be associated with anorexia, cold, fever, sinusitis or any chronic illness.
Nature of pain in Tension headache
Type – Dull, pressing type of pain in head occurring bilaterally.
Intensity of pain – mild or moderate
Nature – episodic in beginning – occurs for less than 15 days a month, later it becomes chronic headache when it occurs for more than 15 days a month.
Pain persists for 30 minutes to few days.
Headache vs migraine
Difference between Tension headache and Migraine
Migraine Headache – Severe throbbing pain occurs either one side or both sides of head. Usually associated with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to sound, light and smell. It is triggered due to stress. People who get migraines tension headache can be a precursor. In them, any instance of stress and anxiety can lead to one side tension headache. This may eventually lead to migraine episode.
Tension Headache – It is usually not associated with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to sound, light or smell. Caused due to stress and intensity of headache is same throughout the episode.
Preventive methods for tension headache –
- Take meals at right time
- Warm fluids and food items should be consumed
- Avoid refrigerated food items
- Have warm water shower
- Do not read or see bright screen for dim light
- Head oil massage should be done at least twice in week
- Avoid long time exposure to cold wind, mist and sun
- Do mobility exercise to relieve stress over neck and shoulder muscles.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
Ayurvedic therapies for tension headache –
Oil massage (Abyanga) – Oil massage done over scalp, neck and shoulder region relieves vata dosha thereby relieving stress over the muscles to reduce tension headache. Warm shower after oil massage gives best result by opening the channels to expel the dosha being stimulated by oil massage.
How to apply oil for headache?
Take a few drops of the oil on to finger tips. Gently rub the oil using finger tips in circular manner over forehead and temple region.
Continue massage for 2 – 10 minutes, based on your comfort.
Listen to soothing music during this period.
Close your eyes and relax.
If needed, you can apply same oil over scalp for massage.
It is best if someone can do the massage. If not, self massage is also good enough.
If you do not have the habit of applying hair oil regularly, consider using one.
Read related: How To Select Hair Oil For Yourself?
Nasya (nasal drops) – It is the procedure of instilling medicated nasal drops through nose. As in Ayurveda nose is considered as pathway of head, this procedure is highly effective in curing diseases particularly from above shoulder region.
Medicines for Nasya in tension headache – Anu Taila, Ksheerabala101, Ksheerabala taila, Danvantari Taila
Read related – How To Do Ayurvedic Nasya Treatment At Home? Nasal Drops For Long Life
Shiro Dhara – It is the method of pouring medicated liquids over forehead in particular direction. It calms mind, relieves headache, insomnia, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity etc
Medicated liquids used – Milk, Buttermilk, Ksheerabala Taila, Mahanarayana Taila, Himsagar Taila, Chandanadi Taila
Read related – Shirodhara: Procedure, Benefits, Mode Of Action, Limitations
Shiro Lepa – It is the method of application of pastes of particular herbs over scalp region.
Herbal paste used in tension headache –
Karutha Gutika – This is available in the form of tablet. The tablet is added with water. Rubbed, made into a paste and applied over forehead for relief from headache.
Dashamoola (group of 10 roots),
Rasnadi Churna made into paste with Ksheerabala Taila and applied over forehead.
Shirovasti – It is procedure of retaining oil over scalp region.
Oils used – Ksheerabala Taila, Himsagar Taila, Mahanarayana Taila, Chandanadi Taila, Bala taila, Balaashwagandhadi taila, Sesame oil, coconut oil.
Read related – Shirovasti: Indications, Benefits, Procedure, Limitations
Wholesome diet in tension headache – have more of these –
Milk, sugarcane juice, tender coconut water, ghee, jaggery, butter, buttermilk
mango, banana, dates, ash guard, pumpkin, drumstick, cumin seeds, rice, wheat
Unwholesome diet in tension headache – Avoid these –
Honey, barley, unripe fruits, peas, groundnut, potato, chilly, pepper.
Excess spicy foods, junk foods
All these can increase Vata Dosha, irritate the nerves and worsen headache.
Activities to reduce tension headache –
Dry gentle massage just with your finger tips
Less people around you (Read related: Never listen to your friends
Switch off your phone and stay away from it for 1 hour.
Turn off light
Lower the brightness of your phone and computer.
Simple Anulom Vilom Pranayam for 2 minutes
Yoga and Medication helps to relieve stress.
Activities that can increase tension headache –
Excessive talk, excessive people around you
Pranayama techniques requiring rigorous breathing. (read – Pranayama side effects
Oral medicines for tension headache –
Do not take any of these without consulting your doctor
- Shirashoola Vajra Rasa- used in migraine, stress, tension headaches, neuralgia
- Kamadugha Rasa – balances down Pitta Dosha, hence useful.
- Suthshekar Rasa – useful when headache is associated with gastritis
- Pathyadi Khada – with Triphala as main ingredient, it is one of the effective headache medicine.
- Manasamitra Vati – relieves stress and tension
- Brahmi vati – especially used if the headache is caused due to excess thinking
A cross-sectional nationwide survey type of research study was done for Tension Type Headache (TTH) in South Korea. The researchers concluded that anxiety and depression were more prevalent in participants with TTH than in non-headache participants. (1)