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Tension Headaches: Diagnosis and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

You’ve probably heard of tension headaches. This is a problem that affects a large number of people. As a rule, this means chronic headaches that appear more than 15 times a month.

Among the causes of tension headaches are fatigue, long work at the computer, hunger, and stress. Also, some patients face a similar problem due to the fact that they consume too much caffeine, and alcohol, or, on the contrary, drink too little water.

As a rule, if there are no extraneous symptoms and the pain is moderate, the doctor can assume at the very beginning of the research that you have a tension headache. However, you may also be given referrals for diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis.

After your doctor ensures you have a tension headache, you may be prescribed certain medications or other therapies.

In this article, we will look at the main diagnostic methods that allow you to identify tension-type headaches and how to get rid of a tension headache.

Tension Headaches Diagnosis 

Before your doctor can give you specific advice, he should correctly diagnose you. To do this, you will go through several stages of diagnostics. The first stage of the examination will be a conversation with a specialist who will ask you several necessary questions. For example, you may be asked to describe your tension headache, giving detailed characteristics in terms of intensity and frequency of attacks. It will also be important for you to note whether there is pain during sleep or only during the daytime. Show the exact location where your head hurts. These are all important points to note during the consultation to get a more accurate diagnosis.

Tension headaches diagnosis

If the doctor doubts the diagnosis he intends to give you, he may order additional tests. Most often, this includes tomography. This method allows you to exclude the appearance of a tumor in the brain and, in general, to see its condition. There are 2 types of tomography. Let’s look at both options to understand how they differ:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This type of diagnostic uses a magnetic field, radio waves and computer technology to obtain images that characterize the state of the brain.
  • Computed tomography (CT). This is a diagnostic imaging procedure. During this type of study, a number of computer x-rays are used. It helps to get a comprehensive view of your brain.

Treatment and Prevention of Tension-Type Headache (TTH)

At this stage of the article, it is worth considering methods for treatment and preventing such a problem as a tension headache. This type of headache often occurs due to frequent stress, long intervals between meals, and lack of proper rest. Accordingly, to prevent the emergence of new headaches, it is worth addressing the appearance of stress and tension in your life that will bring you headache relief. We will tell you about various relaxation techniques and some other methods can help you with this.

If you already have tension headaches, you most likely want to know what drugs can bring relief.

We have prepared for you several cure options and methods for preventing the onset of tension headaches. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Treatment and prevention of tension type headache TTH

Avoid Stress and Depression

Stress and depression are often the causes of tension headaches. Therefore, you should avoid the appearance of stressful situations and reduce their levels if you are still tense. Also, pay attention that you can get tired at your work. Therefore, be sure to find your own relaxation techniques to regain strength and energy after stressful moments. Yoga, meditation, a warm bath, and breathing practices can help you with this. If you often feel the tension even without a serious reason, you should contact a psychologist to work on your thinking and attitude towards life events.

Medicine for a Headache

You can take certain medicine for a headache. Some of them can be bought at the pharmacy without a prescription. However, to purchase some of them, you will first have to obtain the official consent of the doctor. Here are the drug classifications and examples of pills you can buy for headaches:

Painkillers

There are some pain relievers available without a prescription. As a rule, such medicine for headache is taken first of all in the fight against a headache. These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Combined Drugs

Some components that are part of simple painkillers can combine with other components to create combination drugs. So, for example, aspirin can be found in combination with a sedative component, which will help reduce headaches. Combined drugs are more powerful than simple painkillers. Many of these drugs are available without a prescription.

Triptans

If a person has severe migraines or tension headaches, the doctor may prescribe triptans. However, these drugs have many side effects and are also addictive. Therefore, such drugs are not recommended to use when you ask, How to relieve a tension headache?”.

Physical Activity

Some patients who suffer from frequent headaches say that regular exercise reduces the frequency and intensity of attacks.

In fact, there is no specific reason that would explain why sports help to cope with headaches. Perhaps, in this way, people reduce the amount of stress, relieve tension and therefore prevent the onset of headaches. Also, sports relieve tension in the neck and back, which also prevents migraines. Another reason may be an increase in the number of heart contractions, which leads to a greater enrichment of the body with oxygen.

If you don’t exercise, try adding some physical activity to your life. It could be brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, or any other activity that you enjoy.

Read about how does lifestyle affect headaches in our other article.

Keeping a Diary

In fact, if you often suffer from a tension headache, try keeping a record of how you feel and other essential things. It is good practice, and you should definitely try it. Get a notebook in which you will write down the date, how you feel, your mood, the intensity of the headache, and which pills you took.

Write down all important details. If you have a new tension headache attack, write about the possible cause and what preceded the attack. Perhaps you argued with someone shortly before the onset of a headache, or you did a lot of work. In this way, you can figure out the possible reasons for your feeling unwell and determine the method that best helps to cope with your problem. 

If your doctors have advised you to change your diet, you can note changes in the state in a diary. In this way, you will be able to understand how food affects your well-being.

Your doctor may advise you to take your blood pressure daily and write it down to rule out hypertension. Your diary of well-being can be helpful not only for you but also for your doctor, who will be able to quickly find the cause of your chronic headaches from your notes.

Physiotherapy

It is another method of dealing with chronic headaches you can hear from your doctor. With the help of physiotherapy, you can learn some relaxation techniques and proper breathing.

So, for example, one of the causes of headaches may be poor posture. Physiotherapy, in this case, can also help correct the situation. Daily exercise can significantly improve your well-being.

Acupuncture

It is another modern method of treating some diseases that you may have heard of. As a rule, it is combined with drugs prescribed by a doctor. A combination of pills and acupuncture sessions can also help reduce the tension headache.

Bottom Line 

Thus, in our article, we told you about the methods of diagnosis and treatment of tension headaches. The main thing that you should do is to try to lead a healthy lifestyle with enough time for sleep, and rest, as well as follow the right diet and lack of stress in your life. During attacks, you can take some medicine for your headache. However, do not take them more too frequently. You need to get rid of the cause of your headaches, not get used to pills.

FAQs 

  • What triggers tension headaches?

Tension headaches can be provoked by lack of rest, heavy workload, frequent stress, long breaks between meals, dehydration, and caffeine or alcohol abuse. To get rid of a tension headache, you need to rethink your lifestyle, set aside more time for rest and sleep, and reduce the amount of stress in your life.

  • How long can tension headaches last?

Tension headaches can last from half an hour to several days. During the period of pain, you can take a painkiller, but do not use it more than twice a week.

  • Why do I get tension headaches every day?

You may have a chronic tension-type headache with which you constantly feel headaches due to stress and fatigue. However, you should see your doctor to rule out dangerous diseases, such as cancer or tumors, which can also cause persistent headaches.

  • Should I worry about tension headaches?

Sometimes tension headaches can be associated with a more serious condition, such as a thyroid gland, a tumor, or a chronic migraine. Therefore, if you are faced with frequent headaches, this is an occasion to consult a doctor to diagnose your condition. However, perhaps your problem is only due to the excess stress and lack of rest in your life.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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