Why Do I Keep Getting Tension Headaches?

May 03, 2024
Why Do I Keep Getting Tension Headaches?
It probably won’t make you feel better to know that tension headaches are the most common type of headache in the U.S. But that means medical experts have spent a lot of time unraveling the mystery of these painfully common headaches. We can help. 

Tension headaches often cause pain that seems to wrap around your head like a tight band, impacting your productivity, mood, and daily viewpoint. If you're nodding in agreement, you're one of the 70% of people in the United States who experience tension headaches.

Board-certified neurologist and well-known headache specialist Dr. Wade Steeves at Valley Neurology in Spokane Valley, Washington, is an expert at diagnosing and treating headaches of all types. He’s spent a lot of time helping his patients deal with tension-type headaches.

Read more from Dr. Steeves and his team about the underlying causes of tension headaches. Why? Once we identify the cause, we can help you take steps to prevent them. 

Tension headache triggers

The most common causes of tension-type headaches include:

1. Stress, stress, and more stress

It's no secret that stress plays a significant role in triggering tension headaches. Whether it's work deadlines, relationship issues, financial worries, or just the everyday hustle of life, stress can manifest physically, often in the form of tense neck, shoulders, and scalp muscles.

This muscular tension can lead to the development of tension headaches, creating a vicious cycle where stress causes headaches, and headaches intensify stress.

2. Poor posture

In today's digital age, when many spend hours hunched over computers or glued to their phones, poor posture has become a universal problem. Slouching or sitting in awkward positions can strain the neck and upper back muscles, contributing to tension headaches.

Over time, repetitive strain can increase the frequency and severity of headaches. If not corrected, poor posture can cause problems with spinal alignment, triggering issues like early degenerative changes in the intervertebral discs, ligaments, and spinal joints.

3. Other triggers

Other potential triggers for tension-type headaches include:

  • Poor sleep routine (i.e., erratic sleep schedule)
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Dehydration
  • Skipping meals
  • Overuse of over-the-counter pain medications
  • Eyestrain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine withdrawal or overuse
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder

Tension headaches can cause mild to severe pain lasting 30 minutes to several days. They may occur infrequently (once a month or less) or make a lasting impression 15 days a month or more.

Treating and preventing tension headaches

A headache evaluation at Valley Neurology includes a physical exam, medication review, medical history assessment, diagnostic studies, and detailed discussion of possible causes.

Based on those results, Dr. Steeves develops a personalized treatment strategy that may include:

  • Identifying headache triggers and patterns via a headache diary
  • Stress management 
  • Improving posture
  • Regular exercise
  • Prioritizing healthy sleep (7-9 hours nightly for adults)
  • Adequate hydration
  • Healthy nutrition
  • Medication to relieve pain

We can’t prevent every headache that might come your way, but we can reduce the frequency and intensity of tension-type headaches.

Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Steeves at Valley Neurology today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.