Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches. Other forms of headaches include migraines, sinus headaches and cluster headaches, but tension headaches seem to be the one type of headache that most people experience. In fact, the World Health Organization recently stated that about half of all adults suffer from headache disorders, including tension headaches.

Canada.com quoted Dr. Shekhar Saxena, WHO's director of mental health and substance abuse disorders on June 20, 2011, "Headache and migraine disorders are greatly underrated and underreported by health systems and receive too little attention." This news story goes on to say that headache disorders (including tension headaches) have a ripple effect. There are huge economic and societal costs that result from time off work.

What Is A Tension Headache?

More often than not, a tension headache is a mild to moderate pain that can be best described as having a tight rubber band squeezing the head. It may also sometimes feel as though the muscles in the head are contracting. Tension headaches are not just restricted to the head because some individuals feel discomfort or pain in the neck or on the scalp.

This headache-type occurs at any age but they are most common in adults.

If a tension headache occurs two or more times with a week and persists for several weeks, then this condition is referred to as being chronic. Sometimes a primary headache can be over-treated therefore a person who is regularly on pain medication for more than three days a week can develop rebound headaches.

Tension Headache Causes

Causes of tension headaches are often when the muscles on the neck and scalp contract – and this is tension. These contractions can be a natural response to various stimuli such as: stress, anxiety, depression or a head injury. In addition, if you engage in an activity that demands your head to be in one position for any length of time without moving it, this can cause a tension headache. Other causes include if you slept in the wrong position or sleeping in a room that's too cold.

According to the National Institutes of Health there are also triggers that can start a tension headache. Some of these triggers include:

  • Colds/flu
  • Dental problems such as teeth grinding
  • Eye strain
  • Too much smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Nasal congestion/sinus infection
  • Fatigue
  • Overexertion

Tension Headache Symptoms

Tension headache pain does not throb and it is not a sharp pain. It's pressure with a dull-like pain. There are other symptoms such as the feeling of a tight rubber band on the head and the pressure/pain is felt all over, not isolated in one place. These sensations can be felt on the scalp, at the temples, back of the neck and possibly in the shoulders.

These symptoms may be an isolated event or they may be frequent. The pain may even get worse if triggered by stress, noise, glare or fatigue.

Nausea or vomiting is very rarely associated with this type of headache and sleeping may be very difficult if suffering from a tension headache.

Treatment Options

You can often spot a person who is at the onset or experiencing a tension headache because you see them massaging their temples, neck or scalp. If you find yourself trying to massage yourself and it is not working, then profession massage therapy is a viable treatment option. Massage therapy in Richmond Hill at Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has helped many patients get rid of tension headaches and has worked as a preventative measure.

Other treatments for milder forms of tension headaches include a hot or cold shower or taking an over- the-counter painkiller.

For those who suffer from tension headaches regularly, they may want to examine their lifestyle. If there is an activity that triggers these headaches, implementing some stress-management techniques can help minimize or eliminate these headaches and can have positive outcomes.

If a tension headache occurs often, seek professional help. Should any headache affect your ability to see or speak then call 911 right away. No one needs to suffer with ongoing headaches when treatment options such as massage therapy are available.

March 10, 2014
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