Do you suffer from headaches that come on in the afternoon? Are your temples sore after spending all day at the computer? If so, you may be suffering from tension headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and affect roughly 2 out of 3 Americans. If you’re one of the 66% of Americans who suffer from tension headaches, you know how much of a day-ruiner they can be. So how do you treat them? And what steps can you take to combat them?
Luckily, we’re here to help answer these questions. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tension headaches, what causes them, and what you can do to prevent them.
What is a Tension Headache?
A tension headache is one of the most common types of headaches. It can cause mild to severe pain in your head, neck, and behind your eyes.
Tension headaches typically fall into two main categories based on how often they occur. These two types are episodic tension headaches and chronic tension headaches.
Episodic Tension Headaches
Episodic tension headaches are much more common than chronic tension headaches. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of days.
For tension headaches to be categorized as episodic, they have to occur less than 15 days per month, but usually, people will experience them one to two times a month.
Chronic Tension Headaches
A chronic tension headache can last hours and may even be continuous. If your tension headaches occur more than 15 days a month, they’re considered chronic.
Causes of Tension Headaches
There is no single cause of tension headaches, which means that many different factors can trigger one. Some of the potential causes that have been linked to tension headaches include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Eye strain or fatigue
- Dry eyes
- Eye misalignment
- A cold, flu, or sinus infection
- Caffeine consumption
- Poor posture
- Increased stress
- Lack of sleep
- Poor nutrition or malnutrition
Common Signs & Symptoms
Tension headaches can be different for everyone. Common symptoms of a tension headache may include:
- A dull head pain
- Pressure around the forehead or eyes
- Trouble falling and staying asleep
- Tenderness around the forehead, scalp, and temples
- Trouble focusing
- Tight or sore muscles in your neck, shoulders, or jaw
- Sensitivity to light or noise
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor if your symptoms:
- Last more than 2 weeks
- Disrupt your daily life
- Require over-the-counter medication more than twice a week
When to Seek Emergency Help
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, you should seek emergency help immediately:
- Severe headache (especially after a head injury)
- Mental confusion
- Weakness or numbness
- Double vision
- Difficulty with speech
Treatment & Prevention
There are many ways to manage and prevent tension headaches. We find the best approach is to find a balance between:
- Living a healthy lifestyle
- Exploring home remedies
- Using medical intervention when necessary
Using multiple preventative methods together can be more effective than any one treatment alone.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle may help prevent headaches. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle:
- Get a proper amount of sleep
- Avoid smoking
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Exercise regularly
- Eat regular & balanced meals
- Stay hydrated
You can do things at home to prevent tension headaches and lessen their symptoms. Home remedies for tension headaches include:
- Apply a heating pad or an ice pack to areas of discomfort
- Take a hot bath or shower to relax tense muscles
- Use over-the-counter medication
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Work on improving your posture
- Manage your stress levels
- Use the 20/20/20 rule to avoid eye strain
If other approaches don’t relieve your tension headaches, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Medications that may lessen the symptoms of tension headaches include:
If your doctor thinks your tension headaches result from eye strain, eye fatigue, or eye misalignment, they may recommend Neurolens technology.
Neurolens technology uses a device that measures eye misalignment. With these measurements, your doctor can give you a specific prescription for neurolenses. These lenses effectively align the eyes and can relieve headaches, eyestrain, and other symptoms.
If you are experiencing symptoms, the only way to know for sure if you are suffering from tension headaches is to be diagnosed by a medical professional.
Your eye doctor can work with you to find the root cause of your pain and offer treatments and recommendations to get you back to feeling your best.