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Tension Headaches - When to Call a Doctor

Call911or other emergency services if:

  • You have symptoms of a stroke, such as:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor now or go to the emergency room if:

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  • You have a fever and a stiff neck.
  • You have new nausea and vomiting, or you cannot keep food or liquids down.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your headache wakes you up at night.
  • Your headaches get worse or happen more often.
  • You start to have new symptoms.
  • You have any problems with your medicine.
  • Your headaches occur after physical exercise, sexual activity, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Your life is disrupted by your headaches (for example, you miss work or school regularly).

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If your headache gets better on its own, you won't need treatment. If it gets worse or you get headaches often, you and your doctor will decide what to do next.

Watchful waiting and using over-the-counter pain medicines work well if your tension headaches don't keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if your headaches are disrupting your life, talk to your doctor about other treatments that you could try.

Who to see

Most health professionals can recognize and treat tension headaches. You may seek treatment from any of the following:

If you think that your headaches are caused by depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor. Treating these problems may help reduce how bad your headaches are and how often you get them.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    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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