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    Tension Headaches

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    What Causes Tension Headaches? continued...

    Tension headaches are usually triggered by some type of environmental or internal stress. The most common sources of stress include family, social relationships, friends, work, and school. Examples of stressors include:

    • Having problems at home/difficult family life
    • Having a new child
    • Having no close friends
    • Returning to school or training; preparing for tests or exams
    • Going on a vacation
    • Starting a new job
    • Losing a job
    • Being overweight
    • Deadlines at work
    • Competing in sports or other activities
    • Being a perfectionist
    • Not getting enough sleep
    • Being over-extended (involved in too many activities/organizations)

    Episodic tension headaches are usually triggered by an isolated stressful situation or a build-up of stress. Daily stress can lead to chronic tension headaches.

    What Are the Symptoms of Tension Headaches?

    People with tension headaches commonly report these symptoms:

    • Mild to moderate pain or pressure affecting the front, top or sides of the head
    • Headache occurring later in the day
    • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Disturbed concentration
    • Mild sensitivity to light or noise
    • General muscle aching

    A tension headache may appear periodically (episodic, less than 15 days per month) or daily (chronic, more than 15 days per month). Chronic tension headaches may vary in intensity throughout the day, but the pain is almost always present.

    Unlike migraine headaches, there are no associated neurological symptoms (such as muscle weakness, or blurred vision) in people with tension headaches. In addition, severe sensitivity to light or noise, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting are not symptoms usually associated with tension headaches.

    How Are Tension Headaches Treated?

    The goals of treatment for tension headaches are to prevent further attacks and relieve any current pain. Prevention includes:

    Over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller medications are often the first treatments recommended for tension headaches. Some of these painkillers can also be used to prevent headaches in people with chronic tension headaches.

    If OTC pain relievers don't help, your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength pain reliever or a muscle relaxant.

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