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Tension Headaches - Living With Tension Headaches

You may have fewer headaches—and less pain when you do get them—if you:

  • Find and avoid triggers for your headaches.
  • Keep a headache diary to find out what triggers your headaches.
  • Take over-the-counter drugs to stop a headache.
  • Take medicine as your doctor advises to stop or prevent a headache.
  • Reduce stress with relaxation and positive-thinking methods.
actionset.gif Headaches: Managing Headaches

Find and avoid triggers

You can reduce how many headaches you have by finding out what triggers them and avoiding those things. Triggers may include stress, hunger, and lack of sleep.

actionset.gif Headaches: Finding and Avoiding Triggers

Use a headache diary

Use a headache diary(What is a PDF document?) to find your triggers. You write down when you have a headache and how bad it is, along with details such as what you ate and what you were doing when the headache started. This information can help you avoid things that bring on your headaches. A diary also may help your doctor plan your treatment.

Take medicines as your doctor advises

If you have mild to moderate headaches, your doctor probably will want you to take over-the-counter medicines to stop your headaches. These include medicines like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin).

If over-the-counter medicines don't stop your headaches well enough—or you get a lot of headaches—your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent headaches.

Don't take medicine too often. Talk to your doctor if you're taking medicine more than 3 days a week to stop a headache, or if you have a headache on more than 15 days a month. Taking too much over-the-counter pain medicine can lead to more headaches. These are called rebound headaches.

Reduce stress

Tension_Jerry.jpg

One Man's Story:

Jerry, 32

"I hold my stress in my shoulders and neck. My shoulders are always up around my ears. A lot of times, I leave at the end of the day with a big headache."—Jerry

Read more about how Jerry reduced his stress.

Stress can cause tension headaches.

You can lower your stress with positive thinking and relaxation methods. Try these techniques on your own or with help from a therapist or counselor. Research shows that you can change how you think. And how you think affects how you feel.

Learn how to lower your stress with these topics:

actionset.gif Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
actionset.gif Managing Your Time
actionset.gif Reducing Stress by Being Assertive
actionset.gif Breathing Exercises for Relaxation
actionset.gif Doing Guided Imagery to Relax
actionset.gif Doing Meditation
actionset.gif Practicing Yoga to Relax

You also can learn to stop thinking all the time about things that bother you.

actionset.gif Stop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started

Seek help if you think that your tension headaches may be linked to depression or anxiety. Treating these health problems can reduce how often you get headaches.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 07, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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