Have you ever been struck in the neck by a tension headache? One minute you’re going about your business innocently, be that enjoying the company of your loved ones or typing away at work, when BAM! A very concentrated hit of searing pain to your head, neck, and the back of your eyes appears straight outta nowhere to swiftly mess with your shit.
I say this about a good many things, but this time I truly mean it: Tension headaches are the worst. Sure, a paper cut to the finger will immobilise you for a few minutes, and a hit to the funny bone is an annoying addition to any day, but tension headaches are straight up debilitating. There’s no pretending you’re A-okay when each square space of your head feels like it has its own deeply painful, pulsating heartbeat.
I never used to get headaches at all, save for the type that comes off the back of a big night on the wines. In the past year, though, tension headaches have taken to the northern region of my bod like a yogi does kale. I’ve tried to track the cause of each headache as it happens to minimise triggers, but for the most part, it seems entirely indiscriminate. Once, as if by dark magic, I was so stressed that it sparked an instantaneous stab of pain to the back of my neck, which spread like poison ivy all over my face and behind my ears. It felt like my head was being squeezed in a vice.
Outside of that, tension headaches seem to just waltz on into my life whenever they damn well please, and I’m not alone. Seven million Australians are afflicted by them, which is seven million too many, IMHO. According to the Internet, alcohol, eye strain, fatigue, smoking, having a cold or a flu, sinus infection, caffeine, poor posture, and emotional stress are all potential causes of your enemy, the tension headache.
Despite having been to yoga for five days in a row (humble brag), I’m currently hunched over the computer like a Gollum/Quasimodo hybrid, so poor posture is certainly plausible. I’ve cut down significantly on ciggies recently, but have taken to binge smoking when I’m ~out~. I overdose on caffeine at least once a week (ask Betsy), and “highly neurotic, emotionally stressed human” is my go-to setting. No bloody wonder I’m a victim of the T headache. Anyone else living in 2017 who is constantly straining their eyeballs for work/social media stalking purposes, paying exorbitant amounts of money just to be alive, drinking alcohol to stay relevant, or feeling the fatigue of working overtime for minimum wage is going to identify with those causes. Awareness is the first step to recovery, so now it’s time to work on abolishing them from our lives forever (or at the very least, minimising the 10/10 pain). Outside of cutting back on coffee, here are some tips to see you through your next one:
Stress Less, Hunnay
Easier said than done, hey? I feel like Paul Rudd’s annoying surfer dude character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall doling out this kind of advice, but it’s founded in truth — sue me. In my experience, exercise has really helped me to chill the fuck out, when being a millennial with a proclivity for existential thoughts who also lives her exorbitant life on a shoestring has become too much. In case you missed the above brag, yoga is my exercise of choice, but I do love me a brisk walk on the beach, a dance class, or a spot of F45. Get them endorphins flowing any way you like, girl!
Seeing a therapist this year is also the best thing I have ever done for myself. Think about it this way: Someone is morally and professionally obliged to sit there and listen to your woes before helping you come to mind-bending realisations about yourself and providing solutions to circumnavigate stressful situations. Friends are lit, but most of the time they will sit and listen to your problems before projecting their own experiences onto you under the pretence of advice. It’s messy. It goes in circles. See a professional.
Get Going On The Magnesium
Look, I’ll be real: There’s little research out there to fully substantiate the claims that magnesium alleviates tension headaches, but it’s worked for me, so maybe the same can be said for you. I either ingest it or fill my bath with it. Keep calm and magnesium on.
Scull H2O Like It's A Glass Of Champers
This one is a no-brainer. Stay hydrated out there, compadres.
Eat Your Way To A Happy Head
Developing good, healthy habits, like proper sleep and a balanced, plant-heavy diet, will do wonders for your boddaaayy, and will keep headaches to a minimum. Also, I’m saying this as much for myself as I am for you: Quit. The. Cigs.
A spot of acupuncture seems to fix everything, doesn’t it? When it comes to tension headaches, acupuncture is especially great because it prompts your body to release natural painkillers. The tiny needles trigger a response from the nervous system, which leads our brain to release a cascade of natural painkillers like endorphins. It also signals the brain to direct blood flow to the affected areas, and regulates the body’s stress response.
Bring The Heat (Or The Cold!)
I jokingly suggested to my friend that she get a teeny, tiny hot water bottle for her headache, and guess what? It turns out this is a thing that exists! Cute!!! Applying heated pressure to the head is an ancient remedy for tension headaches. Grab a cold or hot pack and give your head some sweet relief.
Words, Madeleine Woon. Photography, Mitchell O’Neil. Model, Alana McCoy at Priscillas.