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Tension Headache in Teens: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Most headaches are tension headaches. These headaches tend to happen again, especially if you are under stress. A tension headache may cause pain or a feeling of pressure all over your head. You probably cannot pinpoint the centre of the pain. If you keep getting tension headaches, the best thing you can do to limit them is to find out what is causing them and then make changes in those areas.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest in a quiet, dark room with a cool cloth on your forehead until your headache is gone. Close your eyes, and try to relax or go to sleep. Do not watch TV or read. Avoid using the computer.
  • Use a warm, moist towel or a heating pad set on low to relax tight shoulder and neck muscles.
  • Have someone gently massage your neck and shoulders.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Be careful not to take pain medicine more often than the instructions allow, because you may get worse or more frequent headaches when the medicine wears off.
  • If you get another tension headache, stop what you are doing and sit quietly for a moment. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Try to relax your head and neck muscles.
  • Do not ignore new symptoms that occur with a headache, such as fever, weakness or numbness, vision changes, or confusion. These may be signs of a more serious problem.

To help prevent headaches

  • Keep a headache diary so you can figure out what triggers your headaches. Avoiding triggers may help you prevent headaches. Record when each headache began, how long it lasted, and what the pain was like (throbbing, aching, stabbing, or dull). List anything that may have triggered the headache, such as being physically or emotionally stressed or being anxious or depressed. Other possible triggers are hunger, anger, fatigue, poor posture, and muscle strain.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Headaches are most common during or right after stressful times. Take time to relax before and after you do something that has caused a headache in the past.
  • Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends. This can help relieve stress and may help reduce tension.
  • Get regular sleep.
  • Eat regularly and well. Long periods without food can trigger a headache.
  • Treat yourself to a massage. Some people find that regular massages are very helpful in relieving tension.
  • Try to keep your muscles relaxed by keeping good posture. Check your jaw, face, neck, and shoulder muscles for tension, and try to relax them. When sitting at a desk, change positions often, and stretch for 30 seconds each hour.
  • Reduce eyestrain from computers by blinking frequently and looking away from the computer screen every so often. Make sure you have proper eyewear and that your monitor is set up properly, about an arm's length away.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • You are sensitive to light or feel very sleepy or confused.
  • You have new nausea and vomiting, or you cannot keep down food or liquids.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your headache has not gotten better within 1 or 2 days.
  • Your headaches get worse or happen more often.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.