Headache, Muscle Tension: Teen Version
What is a muscle tension headache?
A tension headache is a headache caused by tense muscles in the scalp or neck. These headaches give a feeling of tightness all around the head. The neck muscles also become sore and tight. Tension headaches can be caused by staying in one position for a long time, such as reading, playing video games or using a computer. Many people get tension headaches as a reaction to stress (such as pressure for better grades or family conflicts). If you get a lot of headaches, see your healthcare provider. They may be caused by something besides tension.
How long does it last?
Tension headaches usually last from a few hours to a day and you may have them often.
How can I take care of myself?
If you have been checked by your healthcare provider and still have tension headaches, try the following to help ease the pain:
- When you get a headache, lie down and relax. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen as soon as the headache starts. (Avoid aspirin if you have a fever.) The medicine is more effective if it is started early.
- If something is bothering you, talk about it and get it off your mind.
- Don't skip meals if doing so brings on headaches.
- Cut back on excessive caffeine in your diet.
- Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.
- Get regular exercise, which releases natural painkillers (endorphins).
- To prevent tension headaches, take breaks from activities that require sustained concentration. Do relaxation exercises during the breaks.
- Make sure you get enough sleep.
- If overachievement causes headaches, get out of the fast track.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
- The pain is severe and persists more than 2 hours after you take pain medication.
- You have trouble seeing, thinking, talking, or walking.
- Your neck is stiff.
- You are feeling very sick.
Call during office hours if:
- Headaches are a recurrent problem for you.
- The headache has lasted more than 24 hours even though you have taken pain medicines.
- You have other concerns or questions.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-20
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.