Written by April Reinhardt (last updated September 5, 2008)
The most common type of headache, tension headaches tend to happen over and over again, especially during times of stress. Also called stress headaches, tension headaches are not usually symptomatic of something serious, but they can be extremely painful.
People who suffer with tension headaches usually report having some or all of the following symptoms:
Tension headaches can last thirty minutes, to several days, vary in intensity, and appear daily or sporadically.
The goal of treating any headache is to relieve pain and prevent further headaches. Most often, people try to relieve tension headache pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as those containing aspirin or acetaminophen. Some other things you can do to get rid of a tension headache are:
If you can discover the cause of your tension headaches, you may be able to circumvent future attacks. Learn to reduce or manage stressors in your life. Eat, sleep, and exercise on a schedule. Do not spend hours each day at the computer. Take short frequent breaks if you use a computer as a source of income. Seek help for depression.
If over-the-counter pain relievers do not help, make an appointment to see your doctor. Sometimes doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants, or powerful pain relievers such as Fioricet or Vicodin. Doctors closely monitor the use of products containing codeine, since they have proven to be addictive.
If your doctor prescribes tension headache medication, make sure that you take it on a schedule, without skipping does, since it is intended to prevent further headache attacks. Those prescriptions may include antiseizure drugs, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants. Used daily, even in absence of a headache, those prescriptions will help treat future tension headache attacks.
Whether you manage your tension headaches with stress reduction, massage therapy, over-the-counter-medications, or doctor prescriptions, make sure to treat your symptoms at the onset when pain is mild, and before your headaches become more painful and frequent.
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