Where should I start?

To avoid tension-type headache, you need to take regular breaks and give your body’s pain regulation system a chance to recover. Another way is to minimize factors that put the system under duress.

‘Give yourself a break + minimize stress' is a great combination for preventing tension-type headaches. The right mix of concentration and relaxation, regular breaks, restful sleep and pleasant working conditions will protect your pain regulation system and boost your brain power.

Sticking to a few simple rules in these lifestyle areas can do wonders for your head:

  • Workplace

    Beating stress in your working day

    • Aim for a healthy posture at work
    • Interrupt your working posture often. Move about. Take deep breaths.
    • Have regular short breaks
    • Also plan longer breaks of at least 30 minutes
    • Screen-free time: at least 3 long breaks


    How you arrange your working day and set up your workplace is key to headache prevention. Again, 'give yourself a break + minimize stress' applies.

    Poor posture at work puts a massive strain on your muscles and joints. Your pain regulation system comes under huge pressure, and that can lead to a headache. A few changes to your workspace layout can help you get through the day without a headache.

    Another key to a healthy head is regular rest. Interrupt your work posture regularly to offset the negative effects of your strenuous job.

    Working posture

    Try your best to maintain a healthy posture at work. Set up your workstation so that you can work without strain. If you work at a computer, sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed. Don’t slouch or hunch over. Your neck and shoulders should always be relaxed.

    If you repeat the same movements all the time at work, it puts an unequal strain on specific parts of the body. You can break the pattern and offset the harmful effects by changing your posture at regular intervals. Sitting in the same position for a long time at work puts a tremendous strain on your body. Use your breaks to move around and combat the effects of prolonged sitting.


    Working without a break increases your risk of a headache attack. Your pain regulation system allows you to stay focused on your work. But if you put too much pressure on it, you may be setting yourself up for a headache. Give your pain regulation system a chance to reboost. Incorporate frequent short breaks (2-3 minutes) into your working day, and schedule longer breaks of at least 30 minutes.

    Use your breaks to interrupt your work posture. Move around to offset the effects of prolonged sitting or unhealthy postures that put an unequal strain on specific parts of your body. Stretch your arms high. Give yourself a good shake to get rid of the tension in your muscles.

    Treat yourself to a nice big yawn. Relax by focusing only on your breathing for a moment. Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in and out. Open a window if you can. Get yourself a drink or eat an apple. The main thing is to consciously interrupt your workflow and take a moment for yourself.

    Create reminders to help you remember – a buzz from your phone or other recurring sound/event may be useful. The 'Headache Facts' app has a reminder feature for regular breaks.Create reminders to help you remember – a buzz from your phone or other recurring sound/event may be useful. The 'Kopfschmerzwissen' app has a reminder feature for regular breaks.

    Screen-free time is essential

    Staring at a screen all day fatigues the eyes and the brain. Frequent breaks are essential to give your eyes and brain a rest. These moments should be completely screen-free – no phone, tablet, computer or TV. You need 3 screen-free breaks of at least 30 minutes a day. If you need more time to recover from screen fatigue, take that time.´

    Listen to your body

    Pay attention to the cues your body is giving you. Neck pain can be a sign that you've been sitting still for too long and need another break. Repetitive movements can cause a serious buildup of tension in your muscles and joints.

    Learn to recognize your body’s warning signals and react in time to prevent a headache. Take a short break right now if you can. Make a point of using the next (scheduled) break to interrupt your workflow and take a moment for yourself.

  • Relaxation

    Conscious relaxation helps balance the nervous system

    • Reserve slots specially for relaxation in your weekly schedule
    • Tip: Learn relaxation techniques


    Conscious relaxation on a regular basis is a great way to prevent tension-type headaches. Incorporate dedicated relaxation periods into your weekly routine. Regular relaxation helps to keep your nervous system on an even keel, which is a very important way to prevent tension-type headaches

    Learn relaxation techniques

    Research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of certain relaxation techniques. Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation gets great results in real-life use. It’s easy to learn and, with practice, you can do it almost anywhere. Use the step-by-step guide in the 'Headache Facts' app or access it from the 'Resources' part of this website.

  • Physical activity

    Exercise helps to balance your nervous system

    • Integrate movement into your day: go places on foot or ride your bike
    • Exercising in the fresh air is an ideal way to recharge your batteries
    • Rule of thumb: Half an hour of vigorous exercise 3 to 4 times a week

    Physical activity

    Exercising is a tried and trusted way to prevent headaches. The right mix of concentration and relaxation helps to balance your nervous system and keep your levels of stress hormones down.

    Daily exercise

    Exercising in the fresh air is an effective way to beat tension-type headaches. Half an hour a day should be enough. Walking or biking to get around is good for your brain as well as your body. Half an hour of vigorous exercise another 3 to 4 times a week is recommended in addition, but don’t overexert yourself

    Regular healthy exercise such as swimming, cycling or hiking is good for you and helps you and your brain to relax. But this is really important: don’t overdo it. Find a sport that makes you feel good.

  • Sleep

    Sleep refreshes the brain

    • Take time to wind down before going to bed
    • Find out how much sleep you need – and stick to it
    • Stick to your sleep schedule on weekends
    • Rule of thumb: 7–9 hours


    Your body rests and recharges while you sleep. That's why getting enough restful sleep is essential for a healthy brain. Find out what you need for a restful night's sleep. Wind down for half an hour before going to bed. Turn off your phone and get some me-time. Find a bedtime ritual you like and that works for you. Allow your body and mind to wind down.

    Sleep duration

    How much sleep do you need to feel refreshed in the morning? 7– 9 hours is a good rule of thumb. Once you've figured out your ideal bedtime, try to stick to it every night – even on weekends.

  • Nutrition

    Regular meals, mindful eating

    • Your brain needs carbohydrates to work in a healthy way
    • Schedule regular breaks for meals and enjoy your food without distraction
    • Take time for breakfast
    • 3 main meals, 2 snacks


    Eat regular meals and practice mindful eating. The brain is one of the body’s hungriest organs. It needs a constant flow of energy to work properly. That's why regular meals are important to prevent headaches. It’s best to have 3 meals spread out over the day and 2 snacks containing plenty of carbohydrates. Cereals like bread, pasta and rice – preferably whole grain – legumes and potatoes contain carbohydrates.

    Eat regular meals and take your time

    Build regular breaks into your workday for an unrushed meal. Mindful eating helps us to eat right. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Taste and savor every bite. It’s good for your digestion and helps you to stop eating when you’re full. Your brain gets the energy it needs and you get a little break from your workday.


    Breakfast is important for head health. Your energy stores are empty in the morning after not eating all night. Spend at least 30 minutes eating a proper breakfast. A hot breakfast containing complex carbohydrates (muesli with hot milk, for instance) gives your nervous system lots of energy. Other whole foods such as whole grain bread are also very good at filling up your energy stores.

  • Drinking

    Your brain needs water

    • Rule of thumb: 2–3 liters of fluids per day
    • Keep it regular: Start your day by drinking plenty in the morning, then at least every 2 hours afterward
    • Water is best. Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol.


    Your body needs fluids to be able to perform all the functions that keep you alive. If you don’t drink enough, your blood will not be able to transport nutrients to your brain. Your brain will not get the energy it so badly needs.

    Drink regularly

    Drinking regularly is important. Be sure to drink enough first thing in the morning and have something to drink at least every 2 hours afterward.

    How much is enough?

    Drink 2–3 liters of fluids every day. If you do a workout, you will need even more. Water and other unsweetened beverages are best. Enjoy coffee, black tea and alcoholic beverages in moderation. If your work does not provide drinks, carry drinks from home.

Discover your headache type

Migraine, tension-type headache and medication overuse headache are by far the most common types of headache. Take the Quick Headache Quiz to discover if your headache is one of those three types.


Understanding tension-type headacheUnderstanding tension-type headache

Tension-type headache is the most common type of headache. Every second headache sufferer gets it.

  • How tension-type headache develops

    How tension-type headache develops

    Die Wissenschaft geht heute davon aus, dass der Kopfschmerz vom Spannungstyp die Folge einer Erschöpfung des körpereigenen Schmerzregulationssystems ist. Wie funktioniert dieses Schmerzregulationssystem und was hat es mit Kopfschmerzen zu tun?

    Der Körper hat die Fähigkeit, seine Schmerzempfindlichkeit unterschiedlichen Situationen anzupassen. Das Gehirn reguliert dauernd, wie viele Schmerzinformationen es einströmen lässt. Ist der Körper einer anhaltenden Belastung ausgesetzt, wenn man sich z. B. auf eine wichtige Sache konzentriert, reguliert das Gehirn die Schmerzempfindlichkeit nach unten. Es lässt also weniger Schmerzinformationen einströmen, damit eine ungestörte Konzentration möglich ist.

    Das Gehirn kann diese Schmerzregulation aber nicht unendlich leisten. Hält die Belastung zu lange an, kommt es zu einer Erschöpfung des Regulationssystems. Das Gehirn kann die Schmerzmechanismen nun nicht mehr ausreichend regulieren. Die Schmerzinformationen können ungehindert einströmen und Kopfschmerzen entstehen.

    Wie fühlt sich der Kopfschmerz vom Spannungstyp an?

    Fast jeder kennt Kopfschmerzen vom Spannungstyp: Sie arbeiten schon seit Stunden konzentriert und in starrer Haltung an einer Sache. Obwohl Sie bereits erschöpft sind und sich z. B. Nackenschmerzen eingestellt haben, arbeiten Sie weiter. Schließlich bekommen Sie auch noch Kopfschmerzen.

    Kopfschmerzen vom Spannungstyp werden als drückender oder beengender Schmerz wahrgenommen – wie ein zu enger Helm, der auf den Kopf drückt oder ein auf dem Kopf lastendes Gewicht. Sie können zunächst im Nackenbereich auftreten und sich dann über den Hinterkopf nach vorne zur Stirn und zu den Augen ausbreiten. Übelkeit, Lichtempfindlichkeit und Lärmempfindlichkeit bestehen in der Regel nicht. Auch körperliche Aktivitäten führen zu keiner Verstärkung der Schmerzen. Im Gegenteil: Bei Bewegung an der frischen Luft werden die Schmerzen schnell besser.