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Tension Headaches - Topic Overview

How are tension headaches diagnosed?

A doctor can usually diagnose tension headaches by asking you questions about your health and lifestyle and by examining you.

How are they treated?

Most people can treat their tension headaches with over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or aspirin (such as Bayer).

But if you take these pain relievers more than 3 times a week, you may get rebound headaches. These are different from tension headaches. Rebound headaches usually start after pain medicine has worn off, which leads you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine if you get chronic tension headaches.

Can you prevent tension headaches?

Even with treatment, most people still have some headaches. But with treatment, you will probably have them less often. And when you do get them, they probably won't be as bad.

Home treatment may help you avoid headaches. You can:

  • Try to reduce stress.
  • Make sure you sleep, exercise, and eat on a regular schedule.
  • Make sure you practice good posture. Stand and sit up straight.
  • Try not to strain your eyes when you use your computer.
  • Get treatment for depression or anxiety if you have those health problems.
  • Try using a headache diary. Every time you get a headache, write down the date, the time, and what you were doing and feeling before your headache started. This may help you and your doctor find out what is causing your headaches. Then your doctor can use the diary to plan your treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about tension headaches:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with tension headaches:

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
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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