After too many hours squinting at your computer screen and struggling to finish your project before a deadline, you recognize a frustrating pain in your head. Tension headaches (otherwise known as stress headaches) are the most common type of headache, according to MedlinePlus, a resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Luckily, in many cases, you don’t need to wait until a doctor’s visit to find relief. There are a number of techniques you can try to relieve a mild tension headache. Hopefully, doing one of these tricks can help you enjoy your lunch break without a headache holding you back.
Dim the lights
Bright lights or the glow from a phone screen can be a source for tension headaches, according to WebMD. Put away a glowing device, lower your window shades, or try to find a dim room. If you can’t escape a brightly lit area, try closing your eyes and cupping them with the palm of your hands for a few minutes.
Take a breather
The UK’s National Health Service says tension headaches are usually caused by stress, so the best remedy may be to try and relax. Close your eyes and focus on deep, slow breathing. Put aside anxious thoughts and visualize yourself somewhere calm for a few minutes.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health found participants who massaged their neck and shoulders had less frequent headaches. If you don’t have someone who can reach those muscles for you, there are several self-massage tools you can try, including lacrosse or tennis balls.
The Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals group recommends a light massage on your head to relieve tension pain. Press your fingertips against your temples and move your scalp back and forth. After a few seconds, move your fingertips farther back around the headache band and repeat the back and forth movement. Only move the scalp a half-inch at the most. Don’t rub it.
Take an over-the-counter medicine
Mayo Clinic says certain medicines from your local drugstore can alleviate pain. These include the drugs aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen (Aleve).
Go hot . . . or cold
MedlinePlus suggests applying either a hot or cold compress to your head or the back of your neck may help. Try taking a hot shower or applying a cool, damp washcloth to your head in a dark room.
According to Practical Pain Management, a website written by medical experts in body pain, the temporalis muscle is a likely source for a tension headache. This muscle is also one that we use for chewing, kissing, yawning, and talking. Your headache might go away by the time you spit out your gum or finish your lunch.