Tension headaches derive from muscular tension in the neck, head, and shoulders or a blockage in the blood vessels that transport blood to the brain.
Tension headaches, which range from minor to unbearable pain, are the most common types of headaches. As many as 90% of adults will endure this type of headache sometime in their lives.
Conditions that may contribute to tension headaches are:
- An overreaction to stressful situations
- Prolonged sitting
- Skipping meals
- Poor posture
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMJ)
- Lack of physical activity
- Spinal misalignment
- Head or neck trauma
- Medications used for other medical problems
- Grinding your teeth
- Strenuous or repetitive physical exertion.
- Overuse of headache medication
Over-the-counter medicines provide only short-lived relief, and prescription medication does have dangerous side effects.
Tension Headache Medication
The following drugs are used for the treatment of acute tension headaches.
There are two major classes of over-the-counter analgesics:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).
There two kinds of NSAIDs:
Aspirin – e.g., Salsalate (related to aspirin)
Nonaspirin – e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, etc. (There are many)
How Do These Medications Work?
The specific mechanism of how acetaminophen works against pain is not well understood.
It appears to make you more resistant to pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins found in the brain. Prostaglandins are chemicals that cause inflammation in the body. However, if acetaminophen is not an NSAID, how can it help reduce inflammation?
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs work by blocking two cyclooxygenases (COX) enzymes that help generate those prostaglandins.
Some prostaglandins increase pain and inflammation. By blocking the activity of COX enzymes, NSAIDs lessen the inflammation and pain.
The beautiful thing about the above medications is that you will relieve pain fairly quickly, and they can be bought without a prescription. However, they do have some nasty side-effects.
- It can interact with many common medications
- Cause further headaches
- Loss of appetite and much more
- Can cause heart attacks and strokes
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Swelling in the arms and much more
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Cramping and much more
How To Treat Tension Headaches With The Vagus Nerve
What if we can treat tension headaches without medication and altogether avoid their side-effects? The following method is supported by science and is vaguely mentioned anywhere.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation By Humming
The vagus nerve (VNS) is a nerve that runs from your brain to your abdomen.
Studies have shown that stimulating it causes an antinociceptive effect, which ultimately helps relieve the pain you get from a headache.
What Does “Antinociceptive” Mean?
The pain you get from a headache begins in a bunch of nerves that run across your head and neck.
Each of these nerves has receptors on each end called nociceptors.
When tensed muscles or blood-flow problems stimulate these nociceptors, they deliver a signal from their nerve fibers to your brain, letting your brain know that a particular body part is in pain and needs help.
The brain follows the nociceptor’s distress message to determine exactly where it and the pain location is. In doing so, the brain delivers chemicals to the pain area, which causes the immune system to create localized inflammation.
So, by inhibiting a nociceptor from sending distress signals to your brain would, in essence, make your pain null and void.
By stimulating the vagus nerve, you can create an antinociceptive effect (stopping a pain signal from going from the nociceptor to your brain)
In a study published in 2014, scientists confirmed that stimulating the vagus nerve can help in pain management. They stated the following:
- “The vagus nerve…inhibits inflammation, oxidative stress, and sympathetic activity, activates brain regions that can oppose the brain “pain matrix,” and finally it might influence the analgesic effects of opioids.“
Humming Can Stimulate The Vagus Nerve
Since part of the vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords, you will be able to stimulate it by humming.
The vibration you create from humming is what stimulates it. Humming has a powerful effect on the vagus nerve due to the resonance phenomenon.
It is suggested that if you can control your vagus nerve, you can control inflammation and the immune response.
Tension headaches strike almost the entire world population sometime in their lives.
There are medications for it, but they all have side effects, and only work temporarily. Stimulating the vagus nerve to help you with those tension headaches is simple and easy.
Just sit in a quiet place and hum for a little while. The fantastic thing is that it is free and can be practically done anywhere.
Scientific evidence shows that it works. If you suffer from acute or chronic tension headaches, humming to relieve your headache will save you a lot of money. You will no longer need to purchase the over-the-counter medication.