What Are The Symptoms Of A Tension Headache
These are common symptoms of a tension headache:
- Slow onset of the headache
- Head usually hurts on both sides
- Pain is dull or feels like a band or vice around the head
- Pain may involve the back part of the head or neck
- Pain is usually mild to moderate, but not severe
The symptoms of tension headaches may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
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
Preventing Tension Headaches From Anxiety
To prevent tension headaches, finding ways to reduce anxiety is essential.
Although each persons cause of anxiety is different, there are some general anxiety reduction strategies that could result in preventing headaches altogether. :
- Make sure that you are exercising, eating healthy, and drinking plenty of water. Poor eating habits and inactivity generally lead to more anxiety and thus could contribute to tension headaches.
- Learn anxiety reduction strategies to manage the level of anxiety experienced, as the more anxiety one feels, the more intense a tension headache may be. So, it makes sense that. tension headaches are more easily treated when mild. As soon as you start feeling stressed, start deep breathing or practice a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. These are ways to intervene when the pain is still manageable.
- Always try to get enough sleep. Sleep is essential to mental and physical health and one of life’s main coping strategies. Lack of sleep contributes to increased stress, and further eye strain .
While there are ways to manage anxiety and the associated headaches, meeting with a mental health professional still may be recommended vital to explore and identify the underlying cause of anxiety.
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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.
What Are Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are dull pain, tightness, or pressure around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. Some people say it feels like a clamp squeezing their skull. Theyâre also called stress headaches, and theyâre the most common type for adults.
There are two types:
- Episodic tension headaches happen fewer than 15 days per month.
- Chronic tension headaches happen more than 15 days a month.
These headaches can last 30 minutes to a few days. The episodic kind usually starts slowly, often in the middle of the day.
Chronic ones come and go over a longer period of time. The pain may get stronger or ease up through the day, but itâs almost always there.
Although your head hurts, tension headaches usually don’t keep you from your daily activities, and they donât affect your vision, balance, or strength.
Where does it hurt?
This type of headache can:
- Start at the back of your head and spread forward
- Become a band of dull pressure or squeezing pain around your entire head
- Affect both sides of your head equally
- Make the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and jaw feel tight and sore
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Why Do You Get Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are classed as primary, which means that there isnt always a reason for them, and they are not caused by a medical issue or illness. Many people experience tension headaches, without knowing what exactly caused the headache to start.
There are certain circumstances that can trigger a headache however these may differ from person to person. You may already know what triggers your headaches, especially if they follow a pattern or you have them regularly.
Tension headache triggers include:
- Straining your eyes by squinting
- Looking at computer screens for too long
- Incorrect posture, can cause tension to build in your muscles
- Not being physically active
Rule Out Other Conditions
First things first, are you absolutely 100% sure your headaches are caused by stress? Tension or stress headaches tend to cause neck and shoulder aches, as well as a feeling of pressure across the forehead, or down the sides and back of the head.
They can focus on one particular area, or feel more like a dull aching pain all over. Unlikely migraines, they dont typically cause changes to vision, nausea, or other symptoms.
If your eyesight has changed, the first thing to do is rule out problems with your vision. Get your eyes tests, and see if a trendy pair of Ted Baker glasses could solve the problem.
If you have other symptoms or your headaches are getting worse, consider a visit to your doctor to rule out other conditions.
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Are There Any Risks To Taking Medication To Treat Tension Headaches
Over-the-counter pain relievers are generally safe. But overusing pain relievers can cause other problems. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle carefully. Always check in with your provider if you feel the need to use pain relievers more than twice a week.
Take these medications only when you need them. Use the smallest dose that relieves your pain.
In general, overusing pain medications may cause:
- Headaches: Taking pain relievers too often can actually cause a headache when you stop taking the medicine. This effect is similar to withdrawal.
- Other side effects: All drugs have side effects. Avoid taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen, too often. Overuse may cause stomach pain, bleeding or ulcers. If you take any medication regularly, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
- Reduced benefits over time: Your body can build up a tolerance any medication. You may notice that a medication youve used regularly doesnt work as well as it once did.
- Dependence: Some medications can become addictive. They may pose more risks than benefits. For that reason, healthcare providers usually recommend against prescribing benzodiazepines and narcotics to treat tension headaches.
As If Stress Werent Bad Enough On Its Own It Can Both Trigger And Worsen Headaches
Modern life is stressful and, unfortunately, that doesnt seem likely to change any time soon. From the moment your alarm clock jolts you out of bed until youre finally done for the day, you are likely to experience some amount of stress. This can be in the form of anxiety or other psychological pressures, or physical stress such as eye and neck strain from sitting at a computer. While a little stress is tolerable, too much can have damaging effects on your health.i Many symptoms can be attributed to the mental and physiological pressures were under. These can range from fatigue to stomach upset to sleep problems. Top of the list? That nagging headache.ii
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If The Pain Is Around Your Eye
Head pain in and around your eye can be a classic sign of a cluster headache, so named because these headaches tend to occur in groups over a period of weeks or months before going away for a while. Usually just one eye is affected , and that eye may also be red, teary, swollen, or droopy.
Cluster headache pain may also radiate down your neck, cheek, nose, temple, or shoulder, again, usually just on one side. You may also have a runny or stuffy nose and even nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Because theyre usually one-sided and can involve sensitivity to stimuli, cluster headaches are often confused with migraines.
Each cluster headache can last as little as half an hour or as long as several hours, usually appearing at the same time each day and often when youre sleeping, which is why theyre nicknamed alarm clock headaches. Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches, but also one of the rarest.
They are very painful, like a hot poker in the eye, says Mark W. Green, MD, a spokesperson for the National Headache Foundation and the director of headache and pain medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.
Avoiding Pain Is Easier When You Understand How To Prevent Headaches
It’s hard to think about the causes of headaches when you’re struggling with pain. Once you’re feeling better, figuring out what leads to the agony can help you dodge it in the future. This requires you to pay attention to the environment, eating habits, and activities that spark headache discomfort.
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Diagnostic Tests/lab Tests/lab Values
If an individual is experiencing frequent headaches, then a medical professional may perform physical and neurological exams to try to determine what is causing them. Taking a thorough history may be the most important diagnostic tool in determining a TTH. It is important to understand how long an individual has been experiencing these headaches, how long they last, their intensity, and if there are any associated symptoms that accompany the headache. For example, auras are associated with migraines and one can rule out TTH if these symptoms are described. A medical professional may also ask if there are any known triggers and what, if anything, can be done to eliminate the symptoms. A physician may also choose to order a computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging , X-Ray, or electroencephalogram to rule out other possible causes of the headaches. The HALT index, or headache-attributed lost time index, is a patient reported outcome measure used to determine how headaches are affecting the individual’s life. This outcome measurement can help steer decisions in medical treatment. After the medical intervention, the Headache and Assessment of Response to Treatment is used to assess the effectiveness of the treatment. Lastly, individuals are given pamphlets of information describing what a TTH is, the symptoms, and possible treatment options.
Ways To Manage Tension Headaches
To prevent or to ease tension headaches, Dr. Bang recommends the following:
Dr. Bang points out that the good thing about drug-free treatments is that any side effects go away on their own.
What about rubbing your temples when a tension headaches starts to build does it help? Muscle tension varies, so rubbing on your temples may not bring relief, says Dr. Bang. But rubbing on the tender spots, or trigger points, in your neck and shoulder muscles can help.
If tension headaches dont go away after trying these suggestions, it may be time to look at the psychological stress in your life, he notes.
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Why Do I Get Tension Headaches Every Day
Lifestyle factors can play a part in how often we experience headaches as certain aspects of our lives can trigger tension headaches. For example your headaches may occur when youre dehydrated, hungry or tired. Finding out what exactly is triggering is your tension headaches, and taking action to avoid these will help you to manage your headaches and hopefully reduce them.
What Causes Tension Headaches
Tension headache is caused by tightening of the muscles around your head and neck. This often results in pain in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. This is usually brought on by:
- lifestyle issues such as working too much, not getting enough sleep, missing meals, not drinking enough water or drinking alcohol excessively
- poor posture related to how you sit, stand or lie down this can also be caused by poorly setup computer workstations or overuse of mobile devices
- emotional stress and anxiety.
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Make Time For Relationships And Personal Growth
Studies show that talking with other people relieves stress. Schedule together time with your partner, and deliberately get off the couch and do something fun. Reach out to your support network, and offer support to others. By increasing personal interaction and prioritizing the things that make you happy, stress will instantly be minimized.
How Do You Get Rid Of A Tension Headache
Tension headaches do not usually require medical treatment, and you do not need to see your doctor if you only get occasional headaches. However you should visit your GP if you experience headaches several times a week and your pain is so severe that you cannot carry out daily tasks. Theyll be able to offer advice as well as investigate what is causing your headaches.
You can also use over the counter pain relief to ease the pain caused by tension headaches these treatments include paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Remember to always read the label and follow the enclosed patient leaflet, this will inform you about dosages and guidelines you should follow. It is not recommended that you take stronger pain medication such as co-codamol, unless a doctor has told you too, as it can cause drowsiness or in some cases headaches.
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What Causes A Tension Headache
The exact mechanism that causes a tension headache is not known. Several factors, such as genetics and environment, are thought to be involved. Muscle contractions in the head and neck are considered a major factor in the development of a tension headache. Some people get tension headaches in response to stressful events or hectic days.
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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How Are Tension Headaches Treated
The goal of treatment is to stop headaches from occurring. Good headache management depends on reducing stress and tension. Some suggestions include:
- Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day
- Exercising regularly each day for at least 30 minutes
- Eating regular meals without skipping any, especially breakfast
- Avoiding headache triggers, such as certain foods and lack of sleep
- Resting in a quiet, dark environment as needed
- Stress management
- Medicine, as recommended by your healthcare provider
What Otc And Prescription Medications Treat Pain And Manage Tension Headaches
Many people treat tension headache on their own, using OTC medications like acetaminophen , ibuprofen , or combination medications containing acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine . While these medications can be effective and when taken as directed are safe for most people, overuse can lead to headaches which are more frequent and severe. This can occur if these agents are used more than 2 days each week routinely. If tension headache occurs during pregnancy, the patient should contact her physician about medications that are safe to use.
- Products which contain aspirin should not be given to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
- Chronic use of acetaminophen, or use of acetaminophen in large amounts may lead to liver toxicity , and a number of medications are combined with acetaminophen so patients should discuss all OTC drugs they are taking with their doctors.
If a diagnosis of chronic tension headache is made or suspected, prescription medications may be used in an effort to lessen the frequency and decrease the severity of the headaches. Medications used include antidepressants and antiseizure drugs. A doctor can help determine which medicine is best for you.
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Types And Causes Of Common Headaches
The most common types of headaches are tension and migraine headaches. Tension headaches strike when the muscles in the head and neck tighten. Migraines come on when supersensitive nerve endings in the brain create pain.
But what makes the muscles tense, or causes some nerve endings in the brain to become so sensitive? That’s not as well understood. Those causes of headaches can vary from person to person. But some triggers are common.
Tension headaches are often set off by:
- caffeine withdrawal
- abrupt cessation of medications that contain caffeine, such as some pain-relieving medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- weather changes
- food and drinks, such as chocolate processed foods that contain monosodium glutamate or alcohol
Many of those triggers for tension headachesespecially stress, hunger, fatigue, and lack of sleepcan also set off a migraine headache. But nailing down causes of headaches in the migraine category is a little trickier the headaches may stem from many factors, or combinations of factors. The particular combination is specific to an individual. Potential culprits include