Relax, Bro | Tension Headaches and How to Treat Them

headache(Editor’s Note: In the past few weeks we have noticed a handful of people getting tension headaches during their workouts. These are so unbearable you have to stop working out, sit or lie down, and head home to find some relief.)

Tension headaches are characterized by a dull pressure or squeezing pain starting in the back of the neck, at the base of the skull. The symptoms are quick-onset and typically force you to stop activity immediately. The pain spreads forward and is often described as a tight band around the head. There are many “stated” causes, but as the name implies they can be generated from excessively tightening or straining the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and head. This can include clenching your jaw tightly while working out.

Immediate relief suggestions:

  1. Ibuprofen/Aspirin/NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to help relieve the swelling in the blood vessels around your head and neck.
  2. Sip on (ice) cold water.
  3. Lie down flat – ideally in a dark room – and close your eyes. Try to relax your muscles and breathe deeply and slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Other suggestions:

  1. As always, drink plenty of water. You should be drinking 8 oz. every hour and 16 oz. with larger meals.
  2. Take fish oil. This is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps reduce heart rate, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and plaque formation in the arteries.
  3. Take magnesium.
  4. Focus on your posture during the workout along with the other 23 hours a day you are not working out.
  5. If you find you are experiencing tensions headaches frequently, get your eyes checked. Vision issues often lead to squinting and increased facial and neck tension. If you usually wear glasses but just go without them during gym time, this may be a major culprit.
  6. Try to focus on breathing and staying relaxed while working out. This may seem difficult or counterintuitive, however it will not only help prevent muscular tension but will help increase your performance. When you tense all of your muscles, strain excessively, or hold your breath while working out you are depleting your oxygen stores and exhausting more muscles than necessary. The movements I see people tense up the most with are double unders, thrusters, jerks, and even sit ups.

Focus on constant, easy breathing throughout the entire workout; if you are lifting heavy or have heavier barbell movements in a WOD, be sure to lock the diaphragm (aka Valsalva maneuver) and set up for your lift as always of course. In addition to focusing on your breath, try to keep your jaw relaxed. Clinching your teeth will tighten several of cheap tramadol 50mg. Try to focus mentally and physically on the muscle groups you are using to perform each movement during your workout.

  1. Monitor your diet for food sensitivities (chocolate, red wine, smoked foods).