Tension headaches are dull pain, tightness, or pressure around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. Some people say it feels like a clamp squeezing the skull. Often called stress headaches, they’re the most common type for adults.
Frequency of Tension Headaches
When you get them less than 15 days per month, they’re called episodic tension headaches. If they happen more often, they’re called chronic.
These headaches can last from 30 minutes to a few days. The episodic kind usually start gradually, often in the middle of the day.
Chronic ones come and go over a longer period of time. The pain may get stronger or ease up throughout the day, but it’s almost always there.
Signs and symptoms of a tension headache include
Dull, aching head pain
Sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head
Tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
Treating Tension Headaches
You can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to get rid of a tension headache. However, these should only be used occasionally. According to the Mayo Clinic, using OTC medications too much may lead to “overuse” or ”rebound” headaches. These types of headaches occur when you become so accustomed to a medication that you experience pain when the drugs wear off.
OTC drugs are sometimes not enough to treat recurring tension headaches. In such cases, your doctor may give you a prescription for medication, such as:
If painkillers are not working, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant, which is a medication that helps stop muscle contractions. Your doctor may also prescribe an antidepressant such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs can stabilize your brain’s levels of serotonin and can help you cope with stress.