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Tension headaches


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The main symptom of a tension headache is pain on both sides of your head, face or neck. They last at least 30 minutes but can last much longer.

Stress is a common cause of tension headaches. Other possible causes include sleep problems and caffeine.

Things you can do to ease a tension headache include relaxing activities like exercise and massage, taking painkillers and cutting down on caffeine.

You may want to keep a diary to record the details of your headaches. If painkillers and exercise do not help, you may be referred to a specialist.

You may be offered a course of acupuncture if you get tension headaches regularly. A medicine called amitriptyline is also sometimes recommended.

Tension headaches are very common. You can treat them yourself with painkillers but see a GP if you have several headaches a week or they’re severe.

Page last reviewed: 04/03/2022
Next review due: 04/03/2025