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Tension Headaches

Tension headaches cause a dull, steady pain on both sides of the head and in the neck and the back of the head. Your eyes may also feel tired. Tension headaches can be triggered by many things. These include muscle tension and clenching, lack of sleep, bad posture, eyestrain, stress, depression, anxiety, arthritis of the neck, and other factors.

To help prevent tension headaches

Take these steps:

  • Make sure your work area is set up to help you prevent neck strain and eyestrain.

  • Make sure that your eyeglass prescription is current and is correct for the work you do.

  • Learn methods for relaxing and reducing emotional stress. These include deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, meditation, and biofeedback.

  • Keep up a regular exercise program under the guidance of a doctor. This can help keep your neck and back flexible, strong, and relaxed.

To relieve the pain

Take these steps:

  • Use moist heat to relax the muscles. Soak in a hot bath or wrap a warm, moist towel around your neck.

  • Brush your scalp lightly with a soft hairbrush.

  • Give yourself a massage. Knead the muscles that go from your shoulders up the back of your skull.

  • Use an ice pack. Apply this directly to the place where you feel pain.

  • Rest. Sleep often helps relieve headache pain.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a trigger for headaches. Don't drink alcohol. This will make dehydration worse.

  • Use pain medicine when needed for moderate to severe pain. 

Woman massaging back of neck.
Massaging your neck muscles can help relieve tension headache pain.

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.