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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). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

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

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.

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