Headache at work

If you’ve ever had a headache from being overworked, stressed out or just plain exhausted, you’ve probably experienced a tension headache.  A tension headache is considered the most common form of headaches and yet researchers still  do not know precisely how a tension headache starts.  Excessive mental or physical stress has, however, been linked with tension headaches. 


Symptoms of tension headaches

Some of the typical symptoms described by those who experience tension headaches are as follows.

  • Headache is felt on both sides of your head
  • Described as pressing or tightening
  • Typically of mild to moderate intensity
  • No nausea or vomiting
  • No sensitivity to light or sound
  • May last 30 minutes and up to 7 days

Prevention Tip #1: Improve Work Station Set Up

Good sitting posture

Do you work from home?    Does your work require you to sit for many hours?  Your individual situation contributes to what lifestyle factors could help reduce tension headaches.  An ergonomic review of your work area might be ideal especially if you sit for prolonged periods.  

Prevention Tip #2: Stretch Regularly

Neck Stretches

Periodic stretching of the neck and shoulders should be part of your routine if you sit for prolonged periods.  Key muscles you should target include the Upper Trapezius, Levator Scapula and the Scalenes.   It is also a good idea to change positions periodically, every 1-2 hours is ideal.  While closures of many manual therapists are unavailable, self massage with a lacrosse ball can be surprisingly effective and easy to do at home.   

Prevention Tip #3: Reduce Stress


Since stress is a contributing factor to tension headaches, choosing some self directed stress management techniques are a great idea.  Consider scheduling a regular exercise routine with moderate intensity 2-3 times per week.  Furthermore, there are other great stress relieving activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises or learn a new hobby.  Lastly, don’t neglect your close relationships with your significant other, friends and family.   So surprise someone and give them call or drop off an unexpected gift to an old friend.

Treatment Options… When Normal life Returns

Improve Your Mental Health:  Interventions like Cognitive Behavorial Therapy, Relaxation training and Biofeedback is effective in reducing tension type headaches.  This might be worth discussing with a Mental Health professional to see any of these therapies would be appropriate.

Chiropractic Therapy

Evidence (1) for the use of Chiropractic treatments for tension headaches were strongest for patients who had headaches in combination with neck pain or neck dysfunction.  Chiropractic treatment may also have longer pain relieving effects than some medications.  Patients had fewer headaches and less severe headaches for up to 4 weeks after a treatment course of Chiropractic was completed.

Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture could also be considered as a preventative regimen.   In one large review, a study (2) found that about half of the subjects who received acupuncture reported a 50% drop in the number of headaches.  The researchers of this study concluded that a trial of 6 acupuncture sessions could be helpful in preventing chronic tension headaches (more than 15 per month). 

For more information on Tension Headaches and how our team at Brightpath Health & Wellness can assist, please contact us by email or call anytime at 647-931-8108. 

Written By: Dr. Kevin Ho, RN, DC., Dipl. Acu.

(1) Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches: a randomized clinical trial. Boline PD, Kassak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV.J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):148-54. 

(2) Acupuncture for the prevention of tension-type headache. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Shin BC, Vickers A, White AR.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 19;4:CD007587.