In and Out Express Care

Hampton Roads Urgent Care Clinics

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Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM and Saturday 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Help for Tension Headaches

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore neck and throbbing head. What’s wrong with me?

What is a Tension Headache?

Tension headaches happen when the neck, facial or scalp muscles become tense and contract. This can lead to pain and limited range of motion in the head and neck. They can occur at any age but are more prevalent in older teens and adults.

Any activity that causes the head to be in a fixed position for an extended period of time can contribute to a headache. These activities can include working on a computer, typing, working with your hands and using a microscope. Sleeping in an odd position can also cause a tension headache.

Tension Headache Triggers

  • stress, emotional or physical
  • caffeine use (too much or withdrawal from)
  • sinus infection
  • alcohol use
  • colds or the flu
  • eye strain
  • grinding of teeth
  • clenching of the jaw
  • fatigue
  • smoking
  • overexertion

Symptoms of a Tension Headache

Symptoms may include some or all of the following…

  • sensation of having a tight band around your head;
  • dull pressure;
  • pain that encompasses the entire head;
  • pain in the shoulders, upper back or neck.

For some, tension headaches happen only once in a while. For others they can become chronic. Pain can last from 30 minutes to a week.

Difficulty sleeping may occur.

When do I need to see a doctor?

Most tension headaches will subside on their own. However there are certain symptoms that need immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the following, seek immediate medical attention…

  • you experience the “worst headache of your life”;
  • you have speech, movement or vision problems;
  • the headache starts very suddenly;
  • the headache causes repeated vomiting;
  • you have a high fever.

You should also call your doctor if…

  • treatments that worked in the past are no longer helping you;
  • your headache patterns or pain change;
  • side effects from medicine interfere with your daily life;
  • you are pregnant or could become pregnant.

Tips to help with Tension Headaches

To minimize the chances of getting a tension headache, or to lessen their duration or intensity, keep these tips in mind:

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Try changing pillows or sleep positions.
  • Use a heating pad or warm towel on your neck or shoulders.
  • Get a massage.

As always, the awesome docs at In and Out Express Care are here when you need us! In and Out Express Care’s about you.

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