Young woman holding a cup of tea in a beautiful sunny room

Heat Therapy for Tension Headache Relief: 6 Natural Remedies

man with a bad tension headache holding his head

We have all been under a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety as we navigate through this pandemic. Worry and fear can creep up again and again and send us spiraling. Chronic stress can cause physical reactions and tense muscles which can lead to painful tension headaches.

Medications such as acetaminophen, NSAIDS, aspirin, tricyclic antidepressants and muscle relaxants may have side effects and potential risks. Self-care is essential and effective for tension headache relief. Soothe your head pain with natural remedies.

Heat is a powerful tool to relieve headache pain and neck and shoulder tension. Many migraine sufferers may prefer cold packs, but thousands of people still find the most relief for head pain with heat therapy. Lessen the pain of tension headaches with warm treatments. This article discusses how heat therapy works to relieve tension headaches and shares six natural remedies that use heat.

How Does Heat Therapy Work?

Heat therapy improves circulation and blood flow to a specific area of the body because of increased temperature. Even gentle increases in temperature can soothe discomfort, provide pain relief, improve muscle flexibility and heal damaged tissues. Two types of heat therapy are dry heat (electric heating pads and saunas) and moist heat (microwavable heating pads, steamed towels and hot baths). Moist heat is often recommended due to its superior effectiveness in a shorter amount of time.

If you have one of these pre-existing conditions, you should not use heat therapy due to a higher risk of complications or burns: deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, dermatitis, vascular diseases or multiple sclerosis (MS). If you have hypertension or heart disease, ask your doctor before using heat therapy.

What is a Tension Headache?

A tension headache is the most common type of headache and is often described as feeling like an uncomfortably tight band around your head. These headaches can be episodic or chronic. With tension headaches, you may also notice tenderness of your scalp and neck and shoulder muscles. Stress is the number one trigger of tension headaches. If you or a loved one struggle with tension headaches, try these natural remedies to fight the pain without the risk of harmful side effects.

Six Natural Remedies

Head Wrap

A heated head wrap can provide pain relief from tension headaches, sinus headaches and pressure headaches. The warm, moist heat on your temples, sinuses and eyes can help you relax. Simply heat your wrap and apply to your head and feel your headache symptoms start to dissolve. 

These wraps can be made with items you have at home such as a sock, some rice and a microwave. Fill the sock with rice and sew it closed. Heat for one minute in your microwave, then rest and apply to your forehead and sinuses. If you are handy with a sewing machine, select a soft material and sew in rice for a DIY heat pillow. If you are not up for a DIY project and would prefer a ready-made, soft, cozy and comfortable headache wrap, you can purchase one at Huggaroo.

The original Huggaroo Soothe Head Wrap is filled with flax seeds and clay beads, covered in thick, minky material and closes securely with velcro. This microwavable heating pad is filled with natural herbs of lavender, chamomile, lemongrass and peppermint for an aromatherapy spa experience to soothe, relax and provide pain relief. An unscented version is also available in black or grey, if scents are a headache trigger for you.

Huggaroo Soothe warm compress

Hot Shower

Instead of rushing through your shower, slow down and take a few extra moments to let your shower reduce your headache pain. A hot shower can help soothe and ease a tension headache. Heat up your shower and spend a few minutes breathing in the warm steam.

Allow the heat to relax tight, sore muscles in your neck and shoulders. Close your eyes and focus on the sensations and benefits of the warmth on your skin. Soak in the sound of the water and imagine it washing away your headache.

Take your shower to the next level with Body Restore lavender scented shower steamers. These shower melts are filled with essential oils and dissolve with hot water and create an aromatic steam that soothes and relaxes. If you prefer different scents, Cleverfy has a variety pack of shower bombs filled with menthol and eucalyptus, vanilla, watermelon, grapefruit and peppermint.

enjoying a steamy hot shower

Foot Soak with Epsom Salt

Prepare a foot soak with heated water and Epsom Salt. Submerge your feet in your bathtub, a simple foot tub or a luxurious foot spa/bath with heat, bubbles, massage and vibration. Soak your feet and feel your toes warming up as your circulation improves. Soaking your feet in hot water will draw the blood down to your feet and away from your pounding head.

Place an ice pack on the back of your neck while soaking your feet in the hot water. The cold pack on your neck will make the blood vessels smaller and help reduce the inflammation in the back of your head and down your neck.


Breathing steam clears your sinuses, opens your airways and helps you breathe better. The warmth of the steam can help you relax and unwind. Heat up a pan of water on the stove and gently breathe in the soothing vapors. The Vicks Personal Sinus Steam Inhaler is a great product that makes breathing in steam easier and more convenient. Steam helps alleviate any sinus congestion and can help as heat therapy for a tension headache.

If your bedroom is dry, you may want to add a Warm Mist Humidifier. A humidifier can provide congestion relief, soothe your sinuses and help you sleep better. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and warm the air in your bedroom or office to help soothe a tension headache.


Dehydration is a major trigger of headaches. If you are feeling dehydrated, drink something warm such as a hot cup of tea and breathe the steam as you sip. Yogi Bedtime Tea is a soothing tea that helps you relax and unwind. This tea combines passionflower, chamomile, licorice, cardamom and cinnamon for a spicy-sweet herbal blend that is as delicious as it is soothing.

If you are a coffee lover, use this to your advantage to help relieve a tension headache. Enjoy the aroma and the steam of a hot cup of coffee and experience the added benefits of a reduction in inflammation. Research studies have found that coffee contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Enjoy a bowl of warm chicken noodle soup, inhale the comforting aroma, hydrate and help your headache pain melt away. Chicken noodle soup is often made with carrots, celery and onions which are great sources for vitamins C and K and antioxidants and minerals. Chicken broth is a rich source of minerals like iron and contains essential fatty acids and protein to help your body repair muscle, bone, skin and blood cells. Soothe your tension headache, give your body a nutritious treat and help build up a healthy immune system with a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

beautiful young woman holding a steaming cup of tea

Neck and Shoulder Wrap

A heating pad for your neck and shoulders can relax you, relieve stress and alleviate headache pain. Use an electric heating pad if you’ll be staying in one spot. Or you can use a microwavable heating pad if you’re busy working on your computer, driving or cooking. Simply heat in your microwave for two minutes, breathe in the natural herbs of lavender, chamomile, lemongrass and peppermint and let the soothing warmth sink into your neck and shoulders.

The next time you need relief from a tension headache, use heat. Try one or more of these six easy natural remedies: head wrap, hot shower, hand and foot soak, steam, hydration or a neck and shoulder wrap. Soothe your pain without medication and avoid any dangerous side effects.

young woman wearing the Huggaroo Embrace neck wrap in grey
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