Tension Headache: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Tension headache symptoms

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They are characterized by a dull, aching pain or pressure in the head. The pain is often described as feeling like a tight band around the head.

Other symptoms of tension headaches may include:

  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Temple pain
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Tension headache causes

The exact cause of tension headaches is unknown, but they are thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Muscle tension in the head and neck
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor posture
  • Eye strain
  • Dehydration
  • Certain foods and drinks, such as caffeine and alcohol

Tension headache treatment

There are a number of things you can do to treat a tension headache, including:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be effective in relieving the pain of a tension headache.
  • Relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help to reduce muscle tension and relieve stress, which may help to prevent or relieve tension headaches.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches you how to control your body’s response to stress. It can be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of tension headaches.
  • Massage therapy. Massage therapy can help to relax muscles and relieve tension, which may help to prevent or relieve tension headaches.

Tension headache prevention

There are a number of things you can do to prevent tension headaches, including:

  • Manage stress. Stress is a major trigger for tension headaches. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and time management.
  • Get enough sleep. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. When you’re well-rested, you’re less likely to experience tension headaches.
  • Maintain good posture. Poor posture can lead to muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, which can trigger tension headaches. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day and make sure to keep your head and shoulders in a relaxed position.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can both trigger tension headaches. If you’re experiencing tension headaches, try to avoid these substances.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can also trigger tension headaches. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially if you’re exercising or sweating.

If you have frequent or severe tension headaches, see a doctor. They can help you to develop a treatment plan and rule out any underlying medical conditions.