Treating a Tension Headache

Treating a Tension Headache

A tension headache can be excruciating and debilitating. A variety of treatment options are available to help you deal with it. These include physical relaxation therapies, like heating pads. You can also perform guided imagery exercises to help you relax and release tension. There are even some holistic remedies, like Acupuncture.

MRI and CT scans

MRI and CT scans can help diagnose tension headaches. These imaging procedures can identify an underlying medical condition, such as a stroke or an injury. MRI and CT scans can help your physician determine if treatment is necessary. In some cases, these scans may even help detect a tumour.


Medication for tension headaches can be helpful for some people. Tightened muscles cause these headaches in the neck and scalp. Many factors can contribute to this condition, including poor posture, emotional and mental stress, and fatigue. The pain from these headaches can last anywhere from four to 72 hours and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

Stress management

Stress headaches are often a symptom of chronic or episodic stress. They are not exacerbated by light, sound, or physical activity, but you should call a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen. Tight muscles often accompany a stress headache in the neck and shoulders. Tense muscles in the neck and shoulders create a "vice-like" compression that can worsen the pain.


A recent Cochrane Review looked at the evidence supporting Acupuncture for frequent and chronic tension headaches. It found that Acupuncture was more effective than no treatment. It reduced the frequency of headaches and the intensity of pain. However, this treatment is not a cure for tension headaches.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers are a popular option for tension headache relief. Many are safe and convenient, and the amount you need to take is limited to two or three times a day. A combination of several types of pain relievers can provide long-lasting relief.

Physical examinations

A physical examination can help your doctor determine the cause of tension headaches and if you need further testing. During the examination, your doctor will look for signs of infection or inflammation. He may also check for muscle spasms or stiffness.