Tension Headaches

Treating Tension Headaches

There are many different treatment options for tension headaches, based on their frequency, severity, and disability. Most people with infrequent tension headaches do fine with over-the-counter medications. Other people may need more powerful medicines. Finally, others may have tension headaches so frequently (chronically) that preventive treatment is recommended.
In general, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more treatment options, including:
  • Treating specific causes
  • Medications
  • Other therapies.
(Click Treatment for Tension Headaches to learn more, including medications that may be recommended.)

Migraines Versus Tension Headaches

While migraine headaches affect millions of people, they are still less common than tension headaches. Tension headaches cause a more steady pain over the entire head rather than throbbing pain in just one spot.
Most of the time, migraine attacks happen occasionally. However, tension headaches can occur as often as every day. While fatigue and stress can bring on both tension and migraine headaches, migraines can be triggered by certain foods, changes in the body's hormone levels, and even changes in the weather (see Migraine Triggers or Migraine Food Triggers).
There are also differences in how these two types of headaches respond to treatment with medicines. While some over-the-counter drugs used to treat tension headaches sometimes help migraine headaches, the drugs used to treat migraine attacks do not work for tension headaches (see Migraine Medications).
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Tension Headache

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