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Tension headaches

Tension headaches, also known as stress headaches, are the most common type of headache, and can cause anywhere from mild to intense pain. They are characterised by a dull pain, tender head, and feelings of pressure around the head, as though you are wearing a headband.


Tension headaches can last anywhere from under an hour to several days. If a person suffers from tension headaches for more than 15 days of the month, they are known as chronic tension headaches, otherwise they are known as episodic. Anyone can suffer from tension headaches at any stage in their life, although women are twice as likely as men to experience them.

What Causes Tension Headaches?

The pain from tension headaches is caused by muscle contractions in the head, neck, and shoulder area. The exact reasons for this are not yet fully understood, as there are many factors that can play a role in triggering these contractions. But many individuals will be able to identify specific triggers that seem to bring on these headaches.

As stated earlier, tension headaches can also be called stress headaches, because stress appears to be one of the most common factors. Poor posture, sleeping patterns, and hours staring at a computer screen are also among the most common triggers.

While those are some of the most common causes, there is a long list of potential triggers. These will usually vary from person to person, so the best way to identify the root cause for you is to keep track of them. Monitor what days and times they set in, what you have been eating, how well you slept on so on. Many people will find a link between certain foods or drinks that could be problematic for them, but not for others. For example, many people find caffeine to be a trigger, while others find that it can alleviate the pain.

How to Get Rid of Tension Headaches

In many cases, over the counter painkillers will be sufficient to alleviate the symptoms of tension headaches. If you suffer from chronic tension headaches however, there is a limit to how many painkillers you can take. In such cases, prescription medicine may be used, but learning how to manage your symptoms will also be essential.

Identifying and avoiding your triggers is the most effective way to manage your symptoms and prevent them as often as possible. But for times when a headache does set in, any sort of relaxation will help. Going to lie down in a quiet, dimly lit room can be enough, although people who experience the headaches more frequently may want to learn about meditation and breathing techniques. For some people, using a heat pack can alleviate the pain, while others may find a cold pack to be more effective. Taking a hot shower can help loosen up the muscles and ease the pain.

Since the specifics of tension headaches can vary so much from person to person, learning the causes and most effective ways to manage them can involve some trial and error. Fortunately, many of the ways to address these headaches are very cost-effective and can easily be done at home. If you suffer from frequent or long-lasting headaches, a trip to the GP may be the most effective way to address the problem and allow you to get on with your day without any unnecessary tension.

Causes of tension headaches

Tension headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions. A variety of foods, activities, and stressors can cause these types of contractions. Some people develop tension headaches after staring at a computer screen for a long time, or after driving for long periods. Cold temperatures may also trigger a tension headache.

Other triggers for tension headaches include:

  • alcohol
  • eye strain
  • dry eyes
  • fatigue
  • smoking
  • a cold or flu
  • a sinus infection
  • caffeine
  • poor posture
  • emotional stress

Symptoms of a tension headache include:

  • dull head pain
  • pressure around the forehead
  • tenderness around the forehead and scalp