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Identifying and Treating Tension Headache's Underlying Causes

Tension headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head, face, neck and shoulders, are usually related to stress, fatigue, emotional conflicts, depression or repressed hostility. Tension headaches often respond to over-the-counter tension headache treatment. Aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen are commonly used for tension headache treatment.

But Dr. Jaime Lopez, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, cautions against taking too many over-the-counter medications to treat tension-type headaches. "If you have frequent headaches and find yourself taking more and more over-the-counter medication, you could set yourself up for rebound headaches." Rebound headaches occur when you stop taking the headache medication.

Dr. Lopez advises that you see a doctor if you regularly take the maximum dosage of an OTC painkiller two or more times a week. Your doctor can better diagnose the cause of your headache and prescribe an appropriate treatment.