A  A  A   Print
Help for Tension Headaches

Help for Tension Headaches

Almost everyone has a tension headache from time to time. These headaches aren’t caused by an underlying disorder. They are so common they are considered to be “garden-variety” headaches.

The main symptom of a tension headache is a sense of tightness around the head, according to the National Headache Foundation (NHF). Neck and shoulder muscles often become tense and sore to the touch, contributing to the intensity of a tension headache. The headache may last only a few hours, or it may linger for a day or more.

Pain relief

For tension headaches that occur less than three times a week, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen are usually effective. Medications that combine pain medication with caffeine may help some people, but they can be habit-forming. Don’t use any OTC pain reliever more than two or three days a week. Using OTC pain relievers more frequently than that can actually cause rebound headaches when you stop taking the medication, the NHF says.

Relieve stress

Try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. Many people find progressive muscle relaxation helpful. Tense one muscle group at a time, then completely release the tension until every muscle group in the body is relaxed.

Lifestyle changes

A healthier lifestyle that promotes general good health also may help prevent headaches. Follow a regular eating and sleeping schedule. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking, can help reduce the frequency of tension headaches. If you already have a headache, exercise may help alleviate the pain. Just be sure to drink fluid while exercising since dehydration can make headaches worse. 

A rubdown

Give yourself a massage to relieve tension. Gently rub the muscles of your head, neck, and shoulders with your fingertips.

Hot or cold

Apply heat or ice to sore neck and shoulder muscles. Use a heating pad set on low, a hot-water bottle, a warm compress, or a hot towel. If you use ice, wrap it in cloth to protect your skin.

If you often have tension headaches more than twice a week, see your doctor. You may benefit from taking a preventive medication.

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.