What are tension headaches?
A tension headache is a particular kind of headache Overview of Headaches Headaches are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many things can cause a headache Most headaches aren't dangerous. but some are caused by a serious problem Tension headaches... read more that feels like a band tightening around your head.
Tension headaches are common and not dangerous
The pain isn't usually severe
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, helps lower your pain
Jaw problems, neck pain, or eyestrain can cause tension headaches
Stress may cause tension headaches
What causes tension headaches?
Doctors don’t understand exactly why tension headaches happen, but you may get them if you have:
Pain in other parts of your head and neck
Problems with sleep
Lots of stress
Eye strain—for example, from spending lots of time looking at a computer screen
What are the symptoms of tension headaches?
Pain in your head that feels like a band tightening around your head
Pain that is mild or moderate, not severe—the pain doesn’t usually stop you from your daily tasks
Tension headaches are different from migraines Migraines A migraine isn't just a bad headache. A migraine is a particular kind of bad headache. The pain can be on one or both sides of your head. You may feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and be... read more . With a tension headache:
Your pain doesn’t get worse with light, sounds, smells, or when you move around
Your headache doesn’t make you feel sick or throw up
There are 2 types of tension headaches, based on how often they happen:
Episodic headaches happen less than 15 days a month
Chronic (long-lasting) headaches happen 15 or more days a month
If you have episodic tension- headaches, your headache may:
Start several hours after waking up and get worse later in the day
Last 30 minutes to several days
If you have chronic tension headaches, your headache may:
Be almost always present, and get better and worse throughout the day
Get worse each day
How can doctors tell if I have tension headaches?
Doctors suspect tension headaches based on your symptoms and an exam
They’ll ask you questions about what causes your headaches
Doctors may do other tests, such as an MRI of your head, to make sure another health problem isn’t causing your headaches
Certain warning signs suggest your headache is not an ordinary tension headache. See a doctor right away for a headache if you have:
Changes in your vision, weakness, drowsiness, confusion, loss of balance, or trouble speaking
A fever and stiff neck
A sudden, very severe headache that came on like a thunderclap
Tenderness at your temple (as when combing hair) or jaw pain when chewing
Cancer, AIDS, or a weak immune system
A worsening headache
Red eyes and halos seen around lights
How do doctors treat tension headaches?
Doctors may tell you to:
Take pain medicine, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen
Massage your head and neck
Do activities to help you relax and lower stress
If you have chronic tension headaches, doctors may give you medicine. Sometimes medicines for migraines Migraines A migraine isn't just a bad headache. A migraine is a particular kind of bad headache. The pain can be on one or both sides of your head. You may feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and be... read more can help treat tension headaches too.
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