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How to Prevent Tension Headaches

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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:

Young woman experiencing headaches at work while she takes off glasses to touch the pain

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
  • Irritability 
  • 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) 
  • Fever
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • 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 

Home Remedies 

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 

Medical Approaches 


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:

Neurolens Technology

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. 

The Takeaway 

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. 

If you have any questions or concerns about headache and tension relief, contact us today!

Written by Dr. Sara Johnson

Dr. Sara Whitney graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Rockford College in Rockford, IL and received her Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. As an optometry student, Dr. Whitney completed a primary care externship in Wilmington, NC, and a hospital-based rotation at the Naval Health Clinic of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, TX. Dr. Whitney has cared for patients as an optometrist in the Colorado Springs area since May of 2009. She has experience in family eye care, including pediatric eye examination, adult eye care, treatment and management of ocular disease, contact lens fitting, and eye surgery co-management. Colorado State licensed and certified in ocular pharmaceutical agents, Dr. Whitney’s training and experience allow her to diagnose, treat, and manage or co-manage all eye conditions. Professional memberships include the American Optometric Association, Colorado Optometric Association, and Southern Colorado Optometric Society.
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