Tension headaches

A tension or “stress headache” is the most common type of headache. It can cause mild, moderate, or intense pain behind your eyes and in your head and neck. Some people say that a tension headache feels like a tight band around their forehead.


Most people who experience tension headaches have episodic headaches, which occur on average one or two times per month. Headaches are not dangerous and often go away by themselves. Sometimes however, tension headaches can become chronic. APPOTEK can help you with tension headaches.


Tension headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions. These types of contractions can be caused by a variety of triggers – foods, activities and stressors. 


Some people develop tension headaches after staring at a computer screen for a long time or after driving for long periods. Cold temperatures may also trigger a tension headache.


Other triggers include:


  • alcohol 
  • eye strain /dry eyes
  • fatigue
  • smoking
  • cold/flu /sinus infections
  • caffeine
  • poor posture
  • emotional stress
  • decreased water intake 
  • lack of sleep
  • skipping meals.


Symptoms of a tension headache include:


  • dull head pain
  • pressure around the forehead
  • tenderness around the forehead and scalp


The pain is usually mild or moderate, but it can also be intense. In this case, you might confuse your tension headache with a migraine. This is a type of headache that causes throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. In rare cases, a tension headache can lead to sensitivity to light and loud noise, similar to migraines.

Prevention and protection

Try to reduce your stress level and make sure you get enough sleep. Exercise and relaxation exercises help the muscles relax and reduce the discomfort. Drinking water and avoiding dehydration helps in preventing tension headaches. Drinking alcohol can make headaches more likely or more severe. Good posture might prevent headaches if there is neck pain. People who have jaw clenching might develop headaches, and getting treatment from a dentist might prevent those headaches.


The first treatment for a current tension headache is to drink water and ensure that you aren’t dehydrated. Also, you should consider how much sleep you’re getting, as lack of sleep can lead to tension headaches. And make sure you didn’t skip any meals, which can also trigger headaches.


If none of those strategies work, then you can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol, to get rid of a tension headache. They can be effective but tend to only be helpful as a treatment for a few times in a week at most. In addition, analgesic/caffeine combinations are popular.


Evidence has supported that simple yet effective neck exercises and shoulder exercises are effective in managing headaches associated with neck pain. Exercises include stretching, strengthening and range of motion exercises. Headaches can also benefit from combined therapy from stress therapy, exercises and postural correction.

When to consult a doctor

You should talk to a doctor if you are worried about tension headaches or have headaches often.

How APPOTEK can help

Appotek doctors and nurses are available for advice and online consultations around tension headaches.


Vadym Diadiun, Doctor of Medicine, M.D.