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Boots pharmacist Angela chalmers

Ask Boots

‘Why do I get these annoying headaches?’

Get to the bottom of those irritating niggles with the help of our experts

Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers says: More than 10 million people in the UK get headaches regularly, and the most common are known as tension headaches. In the pharmacy, we refer to them as ‘everyday’ headaches, and they usually last from around 30 minutes to several hours. It’s thought that about half of adults in the UK suffer tension headaches once or twice a month. Interestingly, women tend to experience them more commonly than men.


With tension headaches, you may feel as though there’s an elastic band or vice gripping both sides of your head evenly, and your forehead can hurt, too. You may also feel your neck muscles tighten, and pressure behind the eyes. They aren’t normally painful enough to prevent you getting on with your day, but they can be inconvenient.

Common triggers are dehydration, poor posture, feeling overwhelmed, tiredness and skipping meals

It isn’t always clear what exactly causes them, but triggers include dehydration, poor posture (from looking down at device screens, for example), feeling overwhelmed, tiredness and skipping meals. Some of the more surprising reasons I’ve heard for headaches include tight hairstyles (such as ballerina buns), and people grinding their teeth while sleeping. If you’re experiencing tension-type headaches regularly, it’s useful to keep a diet and lifestyle diary noting your food and drink intake, and activities. Taking painkillers containing paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen can help ease symptoms* – they can all affect prostaglandins, chemicals involved when we feel pain. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and making time in your day to relax, can also help ward off headaches. If painkillers don’t relieve your symptoms, or your headaches are frequent or don’t have an obvious cause (such as lack of sleep or dehydration) and you find they’re interrupting your daily life, then seek further advice from your GP.

*Ask your pharmacist for advice about which painkillers may be suitable for you. Don't give aspirin to under 16s

Compiled by Charlotte Grant-West. Photography: Alamy, Full Stop Photography, Getty Images, Matthew Walder

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