How to Handle Tension Headaches


Of the four distinct types of headaches — tension, migraine, sinus and cluster — tension headaches are the most common. Even though stress is a natural reaction to stimuli and can keep us safe from danger, an excessive amount of stress can lead to tension headaches. That’s why learning how to handle emotional and physical stress can help reduce the severity and frequency of tension headaches.

If you’re concerned about your headaches, then keep reading to learn some helpful tips about coping with tension headaches. After learning more about tension headaches, if you are still concerned about them, then call us today to speak to one of our physical therapists.  Our physical therapists will determine the cause of your headaches, teach you how to reduce the pain caused from the headaches and provide you with stretches and massage techniques to prevent future headaches from occurring. Learn more about neck pain and headaches and how physical therapy can help here.

How the Body Reacts to Stress

When the “fight or flight” response is triggered, our bodies become flooded with protective hormones like adrenaline, which causes your neck and scalp muscles to contract.  These physical reactions often result in tension headaches and/or migraines.

Muscular overuse is another factor that leads to tension headaches. Holding your neck or shoulder joints in an unnatural position for too long can cause your supporting muscles to spasm. In turn, the muscles compress the adjoining nerves, sending pain impulses to your brain, resulting in headaches and sometimes a sore neck.

Working at a computer, bending over a work table and/or holding a phone to your ear for prolonged periods of time are all frequent causes of tension headaches from physical sources.

Additional Causes

Along with muscle-bunching activities like desk work, here are a few other factors associated with tension headaches:

  • Emotional stress
  • Fatigue
  • Excess alcohol
  • Fluctuating caffeine levels
  • Eye strain
  • Use of tobacco products

Dealing With a Tension Headache

Here are three tips for how to effectively deal with tension headaches:

  • Stretch your neck muscles regularly. Tense neck muscles are often tension headache culprits. Our physical therapists can provide you with stretches to do everyday to help relieve the tension in your neck. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Whether it’s deep breathing, yoga or walking on your lunch break — finding a way to unwind is key to stopping tension headaches before they start.
  • Adjust your ergonomics. Your workplace setup can cause headaches. Consider simple adjustments like setting up your monitor to a more comfortable position, and getting a headset for your telephone. Check out our Lunch and Learn video on how to set up your workplace for a more detailed explanation on how to set up your work station. 

If you have a severe, unusual headache, seek immediate medical attention. Tension headaches, on the other hand, don’t require emergency care — but they can still be painful and interrupt your normal routine. Our physical therapists have the tools needed to help decrease the severity and frequency of these annoying headaches. Contact us today to speak with one of our physical therapists about techniques you can implement into your daily routine to manage and prevent headaches. 


Tags: , , , ,