Headache

What is a muscle tension headache?

Muscle tension headaches are the most common cause of recurrent headache. These headaches give a sensation of tightness that completely encircles the head. The neck muscles also become sore and tight. Tension headaches can be caused by prolonged use of video games, computers, or typewriters. Many children get tension headaches as a reaction to stresses (such as pressure for better grades or unresolved disagreements with their parents).

How long does it last?

Muscle tension headaches usually last from a few hours to a day and tend to return.

How can I take care of my child?

If your child has been checked by your health care provider and has muscle tension headaches, try the following to help ease the pain:

  • When a headache occurs, your youngster should lie down and relax.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen as soon as the headache begins. The medication is more effective if it is started early.
    • If something is bothering your child, help him talk about it and get it off his mind.
    • Teach your child not to skip meals if doing so brings on headaches.
    • Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.
    • To prevent tension headaches, teach your child to take breaks from activities that require sustained concentration. Encourage your child to do relaxation exercises during the breaks.
    • If overachievement causes headaches, help your child get out of the fast track.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • The headache is severe AND constant.
  • Your child has difficulty with vision, thinking, speech or walking.
  • The neck is stiff.
  • Your child is acting very sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • Headaches are a recurrent problem for your child.
  • You think blocked sinuses may be causing the headache.
  • The headache has lasted more than 24 hours even though your child has taken pain medicines.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

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Atlanta Children's Clinical Center

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