Tension or stress headaches are the most common form of headache. Most people have this type of headache occasionally, and around one third of adults have them twice a month or more. In addition, a small number of people (around 3%) have them 15 times a month or more.
Most people find that a tension-type headache affects both sides of the head, although some people have them in one particular place such as one side or near the neck. If you don't take a painkiller they may go away within a short time or they may last for several days. They usually begin during the day and worsen as the day goes on. They may be helped by rest and will often disappear while you sleep.
Stress headaches are different from migraines in several ways. Migraine tends to occur on one side and is characterized by throbbing pain that does not usually go away with a regular painkiller like aspirin. Migraine headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, visual disturbance, nausea, etc. A person with migraine cannot usually continue with normal activities like driving, working or watching TV. A person with a tension-type headache can do those things (although they may make the pain worse).
Stress headaches are usually caused by muscular tension but this in itself is often a physical symptom of psychological pressure or stress that may be caused by worries about relationships, work or financial matters, for example.
Stress headaches can also have directly physical causes. These may include:
– bad posture
– eye strain due to not wearing the right corrective lenses
– eye strain due to long hours reading or at a computer without breaks
– lack of exercise
– unhealthy diet, especially excessive sugar consumption
– tobacco smoking
– lack of fresh air
– weather conditions, including low pressure, strong sunlight, being too hot or too cold
To get rid of occasional stress headaches you can take a regular painkiller like aspirin if you don't have any medical conditions that would contraindicate this. However, if you have a tendency to get this type of headache often, it's not a good idea to take painkillers all of the time. Your body becomes used to them and you can even develop withdrawal headaches.
So in that situation it would be better to find something that will prevent stress headaches or make them less frequent. Usually, this means addressing the cause of your stress or tension.
If you can trace a physical cause to the headaches it is usually a simple matter to adjust it. Have your eyes checked, use a good chair, take breaks and regular exercise, etc. If you suffer from other forms of stress you may need to employ stress reduction techniques such as relaxation methods, assertiveness training, time management, etc.
Remember that headaches can be a symptom of more serious problems. If your headaches are frequent or severe or are accompanied by other symptoms, they may not be simple stress headaches and you should see a doctor for a health check.