For those who know the pain and discomfort firsthand, tension headaches can be …  a big headache.

Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches. They can cause pain in the head, scalp, or neck, and are usually associated with muscle tightness in these areas.

Any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time without moving can cause a tension headache. Such activities include typing or other computer work, and fine work with the hands. Other triggers can include alcohol use, caffeine (too much or withdrawal), colds and the flu, dental problems such as teeth grinding, eye strain, fatigue, sinus infection and overexertion.

Want to learn more about what causes a headache and how you can treat them? Join neurologist Dr. Nicole Gill, a headache specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Headache Center in Cheshire, in a free educational webinar Oct. 28. Register here.

Understanding your headache triggers can help you avoid situations that cause your headaches. A headache diary can help you identify your headache triggers. When you get a headache, write down the day and time the pain began. The diary should include notes about what you ate and drank in the last 24 hours, how much you slept and when, and what was going on in your life immediately before the pain started. For example, were you under any unusual stress? Also include information about how long the headache lasted, and what made it stop.

Hot or cold showers or baths may relieve a headache for some people. You may need to make lifestyle changes if you have chronic tension headaches. This may include changing your sleep habits (usually to get more sleep), increasing exercise, and stretching the neck and back muscles. In some situations, you may need to change your job or recreational habits.

Over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may relieve pain if relaxation techniques do not work. If you are planning to take part in an activity that you know will trigger a headache, taking one of these painkillers beforehand may be helpful.

Chronic tension headaches can be disruptive to your daily activities, but with a proper understanding of what causes them, you can be on your way to being headache free.