Tension Headaches: What to do When one Hits You

We've all experienced a tension headache. Some can be more annoying and painful than others. Still, tension headaches seem to be more and more common today. Discover the reasons behind this and how to reduce the painful consequences.
Tension Headaches: What to do When one Hits You

Last update: 03 July, 2019

Did you know that tension headaches are one of the most common problems in adults today? Worst of all, when not treated accordingly, it can lead to some other more serious disorders. In this article, we’ll tell you what to do before an episode of tension-type migraine.

First of all, we should define what a tension headache is and when it usually appears. Believe it or not, most of the headaches that we suffer from are the product of tension, especially if we’re going through a very stressful situation.

This pain can be very intense and it becomes difficult to live with, as it appears at any time, without warning and can be maintained from half an hour to a week.

Tension headaches are more frequent than we think, and they’re not just a problem for adults. Many children experience them because of the pressures they receive from their parents or classmates. Lack of sleep is another common reason behind tension headaches, both in children and adults.

It’s necessary to bear in mind that if we suffer from a headache once a week or more often, and it usually doesn’t go away within the hour, we may be suffering from a migraine or chronic headache. Then, it’s necessary to consult with a specialist and find an appropriate treatment.

It’s not well known why tension headaches appear. Some experts have suggested reasons such as bad posture or spending too many hours in front of the computer or any other screen. Some have claimed that tension headaches are caused by using your mobile phone with the neck stressed, or are due to insomnia.

Symptoms and treatment of tension headaches

To differentiate tension headaches from any other type of headache, at least two of the following symptoms must be met:

  • Non-throbbing headache, but constant on both sides of the head.
  • A pressure that feels as if we have our heads in a press.
  • Constant pain in the neck, temples, and back of the head. This pain can also radiate towards the trapezius.
  • Tension headaches may reappear when we’re under pressure, stress or anxiety.
tension headaches

Some people can coexist with the pain and continue with their activities since they’ve become accustomed to it. This is not a good habit to develop, because in time the headaches will only become worse and any treatment you try will take longer to take effect.

It’s vital to visit the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis of the problem and receive appropriate treatment. With over-the-counter pain relievers, tension headaches usually go away, but you have to be very careful about self-medication. Many patients get used to these drugs and subsequently, require a higher and higher dose.

Patients who get used to analgesics suffer from what’s known as ‘rebound pain’. It starts when the analgesic stops working and, to avoid suffering more, people increase the dose. Over time, you have pain every time you stop taking the medication.

How to prevent tension headaches

Headaches are one of the most frequent evils in the history of man. However, in our modern world headaches are much more common due to pressures, stress, sedentary lifestyles and the type of work we do.

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The good news is that we can reduce or prevent episodes of pain with certain changes in our habits, such as:

1. Reducing stress: tension headaches

There are many techniques that can help us reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, immersion baths with salts, a walk on the beach or a weekend getaway. Try to take on habits that you can practice every day to reduce your stress levels, and not as a desperate solution when you can’t stand the pain anymore.

2. Sleeping well

The eight hours of continuous sleep are not a whim or a random amount. According to several studies, eight hours is the amount of sleep human beings need to recover from the fatigue of the whole day. To avoid straining your neck, we advise you to buy a special pillow to support the cervical area.

tension headaches

3. Caring for the posture

This is fundamental since we spend many hours in front of the computer, at a desk or with our heads down while we use mobile phones. Every one or two hours, get up from your seat, move your head to all sides and turn your shoulders.

Finally, in the case of suffering tension headaches several times a month, we recommend certain therapies, such as massages, acupuncture or the application of dry heat.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.