Some of the most common and annoying types of headaches are tension headaches. They can cause mild, moderate, or severe pain in your neck, head, and even behind your eyes, with some patients reporting that they feel like tight bands are pressing around their forehead.
The majority of sufferers only have episodic headaches, which take place just once or twice a month, however, there are also some people who suffer from chronic tension headaches instead. According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately 3% of the US population suffers from chronic headaches, and this includes headache episodes which last for longer than 15 days a month. They also report that men are actually half as likely to suffer from tension headaches as women.
What Causes Tension Headaches?
The most common causes of tension headaches are usually muscle contractions in the neck and head regions. There are a number of foods that are commonly associated with triggering tension headaches, and these include cheese, red wine, nuts, chocolate, and anything that contains MSG. Cold temperatures may also trigger tension headaches, and some people even develop them after driving for a long time or after staring at a computer screen for a while.
Some other triggers include:
• Eye strain
• Dry eyes
• A sinus infection
• The flu or a cold
• Emotional stress
• Poor posture
What Are the Symptoms of a Tension Headache?
The major symptoms of tension headaches include:
• Pressure around the forehead.
• Tenderness around the scalp and forehead.
• Dull head pain.
The pain associated with a tension headache is generally mild or moderate. However, if you experience a severe tension headache, it's important not to confuse it with a migraine, which is a different type of headache that causes a throbbing pain on either one or both sides of the head. Typically, tension headaches don't come with all of the symptoms of migraines, such as vomiting and nausea, although in rare cases, tension headaches may cause you to become extra sensitive to loud noises and bright light, similar to migraines.
How Do You Treat a Tension Headache?
Medication and Therapy:
There are quite a number of over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers that you can take to rid yourself of a tension headache, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, however they should only be used occasionally. According to the Mayo Clinic, overusing OTC medications could lead to 'overuse' or 'rebound' headaches, which occur when you become too accustomed to a type of medications, and cause pain as soon as the drug starts to wear off.
If OTC medications aren't enough, your doctor may be able to prescribe something stronger, such as:
• Prescription-strength acetaminophen
If you find that painkillers aren't working, then there's a number of other things that doctors can recommend, such as:
• Muscle relaxants
• SSRI antidepressants
• Stress management classes
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
Supplements and Home Care:
There are quite a number of different supplements that can help to relieve tension headaches. However, it's very important that you get the go-ahead from your doctor before trying any alternative remedies, just to make sure that they don't interact with any other drugs that you may be taking.
Supplements to Prevent Tension Headaches:
• Coenzyme Q10
• Riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
Easing a Tension Headache at Home:
• Taking measures to improve your posture.
• Taking frequent computer breaks to avoid getting eye strain.
• Taking a hot shower or bath to relax your muscles.
• Applying and ice pack or a heating pad to your head for 5 to 10 minutes a few times a day.
How Do You Prevent Future Tension Headaches?
Quite possibly the best way of preventing tension headaches from reoccurring is to identify and avoid any and all triggers. You can do this by keeping a headache diary, where you'll need to keep track of your daily meals, beverages, activities, and stressful situations. Every time you get a tension headache, simply note it down in your diary. After a while, you should be able to make objective connections between parts of your lifestyle and the occurrence of tension headaches.
Images: 1, 2, 3, 4
Cover Image: depositphotos