The primary causes for tension headaches appear to be stress — whether from work, school, or family — and fatigue, whether mental or physical. Certain foods can act as triggers; caffeine withdrawal can also give you a headache. Bad posture — when, for example, you are cradling a phone between your shoulder and your neck, or hunched over reading too long with your neck lowered — positions that strain your head and neck muscles — can result in a headache. Eye strain can also be a cause.
There is also a theory that people who get tension headaches have a heightened sensitivity to pain. So, for example, increased muscle tenderness can cause a headache.
The first step in preventing tension headaches is to isolate what causes them for you. Avoid foods that seem to trigger them, or environments that provoke them. (Maybe having a piece of dense chocolate cheesecake with a strong cup of coffee in a noisy pub isn’t the best idea for you.) Above all, learn to breathe through stress and come up with coping mechanisms for it. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Isolate possible physical causes. Observe your posture and your habits: how do you hold your phone? How do you sit in your desk chair? Get your vision checked to find out if you need glasses for the first time or a change in prescription if you already wear them.
If headaches persist despite controlling what you can for stress, fatigue, and physical causes, there are medical and alternative medicine treatments that can help prevent headaches or relieve your pain. See the Treatments section below. Your physician at the St. Luke’s Headache Center can advise you on the best method for you.