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Treating Tension Headaches


The tension headache is one that nearly all of us will experience at least one time.  That dull, achy feeling that hurts both sides of our head.  It also may involve tight feelings in the muscles in the neck and shoulders.

It begins slowly and gradually builds up and normally begins in the middle of the day.  That is when tension and stress begin to build up and take over your body.  This tension, or stress headache can be mild but occasionally be severe.

If you think you are having a tension headache, you should contact your doctor.  Your doctor will want a description of your pain, when it happens and how often.  Tests may be ordered.  They include blood tests, CT scan, and in some cases an MRI might be indicated. 

Once you have a diagnosis of tension or stress headache, your doctor may advise you to treat it with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Motrin, or Aspirin.  Always check labels to be sure the nonprescription medicines will not interact with any prescribed medications you are taking.

Do not over medicate on over-the-counter medications.  If they are not helping the pain, see your doctor again.

There are prescription medicines that can help with tension headaches.  Your doctor may also want you to take a prescribed medicine every day to help prevent the headaches from coming on.  You will have an easier time treating your tension headache if you begin treatment before they become recurring and severe.

If you continue to have tension headaches often, or they become severe, you should contact your doctor.  You may have progressed to the more severe migraine headache.

You may also try other nonmedication ways to treat a tension headache.  Try taking a hot shower and allowing the hot water to massage tense muscles in your neck and shoulders.  A heat pack on your head or neck may also help.  If heat does not help, try using a cold pack. 

If it is possible, try to take time away from the stressful situation.  Sometimes just a few minutes away will allow tension to ease and your pain to subside.  Take a brief walk, take a few minutes to meditate, or better yet, take a vacation!

Prevention of tension headaches is the easiest way to avoid the pain.  Be sure you get the proper amount of sleep.  An adult needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  It is the only way your body can rest and your muscles relax before you start a new day. 

Finally, get some exercise.  Any regular exercise will help you relieve tension and stress.  Start out slow and build up.  You should try to work up to exercising four to six times a week and from 30 to 60 minutes at a time.  Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

You may start out slow, take your time to work up to the most time you can spend.  Remember, even a slow walk every day will help with tension and stress.

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One Response to Treating Tension Headaches

  1. mercola July 28, 2008 at 12:44 am #

    Headache rates dropped by almost half among those in the “traditional acupuncture” group. On average, they experienced 7 fewer days of headaches in the four weeks following the trial than they did in the four weeks preceding it.

    Those in the “minimal acupuncture group” fared almost as well, with an average drop of 6.6 days with headaches. The third group only saw an average drop of 1.5 days — just a tenth less than what they had experienced prior to the study.

    The researchers concluded that acupuncture works as well or better for tension headaches than treatments already accepted.

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