Articles On Tension Headaches
Whether you’ve had headaches for years or you started getting them recently, it’s important to know what type of headache you’re dealing with. That way, you can get the right treatment.
A tension-type headache is the most common headache. Up to 78% of Americans will get them at some point. You might have them every once in a while, and they may disappear within a few hours. Or they may happen more often and last all day.
Migraine headaches aren’t as common. About 15% of adults in the U.S. get them. But they can be much more painful and draining. They usually last between 4 and 72 hours.
The kind of symptoms you get, how long they last, and how intense they are can be very different for migraines and tension-type headaches. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is A Stress Headache
Stress headaches arent an official classification of headaches in the International Classification of Headache Disorders , but are more accurately known as tension-type or tension headaches, Ellen Drexler, MD, a board-certified neurologist based in New York, tells Health.
Tension-type headaches are defined by the absence of migraine features, so they tend to appear on both sides of the head, feeling like a pressure pain, without the usual migraine accompaniments of nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and worsened by head movement, says Dr. Drexler. They’d be the sort of run-of-the-mill pressure in the front of your head kind of headache of mild to moderate severity.
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According to the US National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus database, tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are described as pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, often associated with muscle tightness. Tension headaches affect roughly 70% of people, and can last for 30 minutes to 72 hours, Susan Broner, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells Health, and in order to be properly diagnosed with tension headaches, you need to have a history of them. To make the diagnosis, you’ve had to have had at least 10 of these ,” Dr. Broner says.
When Should I Call An Ambulance
Most headaches are not serious. But headaches can also be a sign of a serious illness, such as a stroke or meningitis.
- it comes on suddenly, is very severe, or has made you lose consciousness
- you have suffered a head injury
- you have trouble seeing, walking or speaking
- your arms or legs feel numb
- you have nausea or vomiting
- you have a high fever
- you are sensitive to light and have a new rash
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Headache Locations And What They Mean
Most people will experience a headache at some point in their life. Determining the type of headache a person has is key to knowing how to manage it best. It’s also important for deciding if and when they should seek medical attention.
The location of the headachewhether it’s the entire head, one side of the head, the front of the head, or the back of the headis a good first step in sorting out headache type.
This article discusses possible primary and secondary causes of headaches based on the location of the head pain. It also briefly reviews the treatment of common headache disorders.
Are There Different Kinds Of Migraine
Yes, there are many forms of migraine. The two forms seen most often are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura . With a migraine with aura, a person might have these sensory symptoms 10 to 30 minutes before an attack:
- Seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots
- Numbness or tingling in the face or hands
- Disturbed sense of smell, taste, or touch
- Feeling mentally fuzzy
Only one in five people who get migraine experience an aura. Women have this form of migraine less often than men.
Migraine without aura . With this form of migraine, a person does not have an aura but has all the other features of an attack.
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Unable To Attend The Winter 2022 Program
- Can you come to the next scheduled group program ?Following the WINTER program outlined above, the next Decreasing Headaches program begins in FALL 2022 at 7:00 pm. For an e-mail reminder about upcoming programs…
- Join a waiting list to start another program earlier, or meet on a different day / time :For those interested in having this program offered at another day or time, leave your name on the Decreasing Headaches waiting list by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Stress Management and High Performance Clinic at 519 824-4120, ext. 52662. Please specify which days and times you prefer to meet. A program can begin anytime there are 6 or more names on the waiting list.
- Arrange for a program to come to your workplace or community site :The Decreasing Headaches program, or selected topics from this program, can be provided on-site at your workplace or community group site. A 30-60 minute Lunch & Learn session can also be provided. Call the Stress Management and High Performance Clinic at 519 824-4120, ext. 52662 to make arrangements for sessions at your location.
- Make an appointment for private training :Any of the Decreasing Headaches topics listed above can be provided in private, one-to-one training sessions. Daytime, late afternoon, and evening times are available on weekdays throughout the year. Call 519 824-4120, ext. 52662, or e-mail email@example.com to make a private appointment for individual training.
If The Pain Is In Your Neck
Neck pain may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to migraines, but they are a common feature of the condition.
About 75% of people with migraines get neck pain, which is something many people dont realize, says Dr. Green.
Some people can avoid migraine attacks by staying away from triggers. Although these vary from person to person, common migraine triggers include stress, alcohol, and certain foods. Medications approved for other conditions like beta blockers, antidepressants, and antiseizure drugs may help prevent migraines. Last year, the FDA approved the first-ever migraine prevention drug: Aimovig .
If youre prone to migraine, prevention is probably the most attractive option. If you only get them once in a while, there are several medications you can turn to for treatment, including over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to triptans and other prescription drugs.
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Outlook For People With Tension Headaches
Tension headaches often respond to treatment and rarely cause any permanent neurological damage. Still, chronic tension headaches can affect your quality of life.
These headaches can make it difficult for you to participate in physical activities. You may also miss days of work or school. If it becomes a serious problem, talk to your healthcare provider.
Its important to not ignore severe symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately if you have a headache that starts suddenly or a headache accompanied by:
- slurred speech
Treatment Of Tension Headache
Both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments are useful in providing relief from tension headache. A few examples of common treatment methods for tension headaches are:
- Pain-relieving medications. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are commonly available over-the-counter and provide relief from tension headache pain. Combining two or more drugs such as aspirin and/or acetaminophen with caffeine into one drug for some people may have better efficacy than single drug medications. Prescription drugs such as ketoprofen and higher strength naproxen may be used to treat severe tension headache.
See Headache Treatment and Prevention on Pain-health.com
Prescription or OTC medications taken on a continual basis must be monitored by a doctor and dosages must be followed correctly to prevent side effects. Overuse of pain-relief medication can result in medication-overuse headaches in headache-prone people and can also reduce the effectiveness of preventive drugs.
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Key Points About Tension Headaches
- Tension headaches are the most common type of headache.
- Tension headaches typically do not cause nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light.
- Tension headaches affect both sides of the head, come on slowly, and are described as a tight band or vice around the head.
- Lifestyle changes including regular sleep, exercise, and meal schedules can reduce or prevent headaches.
- Discuss medicines to treat or prevent tension headaches with your healthcare provider.
Headache Location Chart By Type
|TYPE OF HEADACHE|
|One sided, top and back ofhead|
|Both sides of forehead, topof the head. Band likeheadache||Tightness or pressure around thewhole head|
|Pain in or around one eye||Excruciating eye pain radiating toface or neck Redness and tearing in the affectedeye Stuffy nose on affected side||Oxygen inhalation|
|Fullness and pressure in cheeks, fore-head and brows Pain worsened with bending forwardand lying down|
|Strict control of blood pressurevia diet and medication|
|Migraine like one sided ortension headache like||-Weaning off of the pain medscausing headaches|
|Migraine like one sided ortension headache like||Mild, moderate or severe pulsatingheadache with or without nausea orvomiting|
|Both sides of the head||Pulsating and throbbing headache|
|Starts behind the eyes andtravels to the front of the forehead||amount of caffeine each day orconsume zero to very littlecaffeine|
|Lying down in a dark, quiet room Massage and relaxation exercises|
|Throbbing headache and neck pain Stiff neck Pain with coughing and sneezing||NSAIDS: Ibuprofen and Aspirin|
|Pain worsened with standing andrelieved with lying down|
|Usually seen in people over 50 years||Corticosteroids|
|Migraine like one sided ortension headache like||Pain in the head before meal-time Muscle tension||Strict control of meal schedule|
|Hangover headache||Migraine like headache but on bothsides of the head||Throbbing head pain triggered by alcohol Nausea||amount of alcohol|
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Front Of Your Head And Face
However, true sinus headaches tend to be rare. These headaches usually turn out to be migraine, which can cause pain over the sinuses.
A headache behind your eyes is rarely related to eyestrain.
If you think youre having sinus headaches, consider seeing your doctor to get a diagnosis. Your doctor can help determine if your headache is truly caused by allergies, or if it could be migraine.
This type of headache can also be due to poor posture or neck problems such as a herniated disc.
A back of the head headache, often accompanied by neck pain, can also be a sign of a low-pressure headache, otherwise known as spontaneous intracranial hypotension . Its caused by low spinal fluid pressure in the brain.
Another sign of SIH is that the pain eases when you lie down, but worsens when you:
- sit upright
- engage in physical activity
This type of headache can occur following a lumbar puncture. If youve recently had this procedure and develop a headache, see your doctor as soon as possible for treatment.
How Can You Treat Stress Headachesand When Should You See A Doctor
Depending on the severity and length of your stress headache, it can go away on its own by simply taking a break from whatever activity is causing you stress, Dr. Wexler says. Lying down, meditating, or doing some light yoga are all great options.
However, if the pain is really bothersome, most stress headaches can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen or naproxen, Dr. Broner saysbut be wary of the frequency with which youre taking medications. If you find that you’re taking more than once a week on a regular basis, that’s a sign that you’re getting increased headache frequency and you should speak to your doctor about what’s causing your headaches, Dr. Broner says.
Dr. Wexler also recommends that if headaches arent the norm for you, especially if youre over the age of 50, you should consider speaking to a neurologist or headache specialist, since this could signal that something else more serious is going on. Some other warning signs to pay attention to, according to Dr. Wexler, include: headaches that consistently get worse or more frequent over time, accompanied by any neurological conditions such as double vision, numbness, tingling, paralysis, loss of vision, or accompanied by a fever.
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Treatment For Migraine Headaches
Find out what your triggers are and avoid them. Keep a headache diary so you can track things like what youve eaten and had to drink, how much youve slept, activities youve taken part in, weather, and other factors. After youve had a few migraine headaches, you can see what things they have in common.
You may be able to catch a migraine on the front-end. Abortive medications, which you take as soon as you feel one coming on, can often stop the process. Drugstores carry over-the-counter ibuprofen medications specifically for migraine headaches. If they arent enough to help, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
If you dont respond to other treatments and you have more than 4 migraine headache days a month, your doctor may suggest preventive medicines. You can take these regularly to reduce the severity or frequency of the headaches. These include seizure medicines, blood pressure medicines , and some antidepressants.
Its also possible you will be prescribed use of external medical devices for relief. They include a hand-held called gammaCore which is a noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator . I, it can be placed on the vagus nerve in the neck to interrupt verve signals for migraine relief. Another device called a SpringTMS can be used for treatment or prevention or migraines. It is placed on the back of the head and gives off a pulse of magnetic energy into part of the brain to stop or ease
Making The Correct Diagnosis
The importance of thorough history and examination in patients with headache has already been emphasized. It is very important to exclude secondary headaches, to recognize comorbid conditions and finally to establish whether TTH coexist with migraine. It is also extremely important to detect whether the headaches are being aggravated by overuse of medications. In many patients with long history of typical headaches with normal examination, the diagnosis of TTH can be made without special investigations at the same time, if felt necessary the investigations like neuro-imaging should not be withheld to exclude a secondary cause.
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Tension Headaches Vs Migraines
How do you tell them apart?
- What do they feel like? Steady, mild to moderate pain that doesnât throb. It can ease or get worse over the course of the headache.
- Where do they hurt? It can hurt all over your head, but youâll most likely feel a band of pain around your forehead or the back of your head or around your neck. The headache does not get worse with activity. Your jaw, shoulders, neck, and head may also be tender.
- Are there any other symptoms? This type of headache doesnât come with the nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or aura that people with migraines have.
- Do you notice symptoms before the headache starts? You might feel stress or tension.
- Who gets them? Mostly adults.
- How often do you get them? It varies.
- How long do they last? Thirty minutes to 7 days.
What Causes Chronic Tension Headache
This condition tends to develop in people who start off with having tension headaches with increasing frequency, until they occur on most days. However, the cause of the tension headaches is not always clear, and may be more than one thing. They may be due to tension in the muscles at the back of the head and neck, but it is now clear that this is not always the cause. Other causes reported by patients include stress, tiredness, hunger and eye strain. Many chronic tension headaches develop for no apparent reason. Working long hours bent over a computer may trigger them.
Some people get tension headaches if they drink too much caffeine or alcohol, if they don’t drink enough water or if they go for a long time between meals and become tired and hungry. Occasionally, tension headaches can be caused by poor vision, particularly if reading in low light for long periods. Some may be triggered by environmental discomforts such as heat, cold, brightness or wind.
Some research suggests that your genetic make-up may be a factor. This means that some people may inherit a tendency to be more prone to develop tension headaches than others when stressed or anxious.
Note: medication-overuse headache can be similar to chronic tension headache.
Medication-overuse headache is caused by taking painkillers too often for tension headaches or migraine attacks. See the separate leaflet called Medication-overuse Headache .
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