Tension Headaches: Causes and Treatments

What are they?

Tension headaches or stress headaches are one of the most common types of headaches suffered by people today.   It is referred to as a tight band of pressure or pain across the forehead, behind the eyes, down the back of your neck and even in your jaw.

Most people who suffer from tension headaches experience them once or twice a month but for some people they can be chronic.  As with most headaches, they can last anywhere between half an hour and a few days.



Although tension headaches are so common, surprisingly they are still not well understood.  Women are twice as likely to get them as men but there doesn’t appear to be a single root cause which makes preventing them difficult.

Some researchers think they are brought on by muscle contractions in the various head and neck regions.  According to Mayo Clinic there are others that believe they are caused by a heightened sensitivity to pain. 

Whatever the reason, they appear to be triggered by certain things, such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety or Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Poor Posture
  • Hunger
  • Eye Strain (from working at a computer or driving long distances)
  • Excess cold or heat



As with most headaches, there are no permanent cures but there are ways to treat the symptoms and ways to help prevent them occurring in the first place. 

  • Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and aspirin can be used quite successfully to treat the pain.  Stronger prescription painkillers such as opiates may also be given in extreme cases, however all of these can be damaging when used long term so are not a permanent solution.
  • There are many natural alternative remedies that are said to be helpful in relieving the pain of a tension headache.
  • Applying heat pads or ice packs to the painful area can be effective, as can warm baths with lavender oil.  Lavender is well known for its relaxing properties and sometimes a “time-out” is all that’s needed to de-stress your body and relax any constricted muscles in your head or neck.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure have helped many people in the treatment and prevention of tension headaches.  The correct manipulation of certain pressure points on the body can ease the pain that is already there, but it is also successful in preventing future pain of chronic sufferers.



Tension headaches can be distracting and unpleasant.  There are many different remedies to help ease the discomfort of sufferers but bear in mind that over time, certain medications can become less effective and may cause other problems.  Tension headaches are best to be treated as early as possible and chronic sufferers should try to manage their episodes with relaxation techniques and frequent breaks from computer screens and driving.   If you are worried about sudden headaches or recurring pain, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact your doctor.