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Tension Type Headaches

It is thought that tension type headaches are generally caused by stress. However, stress is simply a factor which triggers the pain. Tension type headaches cause a feeling of pressure around your head. Tension type headaches are the most frequently occurring type and their cause remains unknown.

Managing this type of headache;

People who suffer tension type headaches need to acquire healthy habits and use medication only when necessary. Being able to cope with the pain without medication and managing stress are also required.

Leading symptoms of tension type headaches;

Symptoms include a dull, aching head pain; a feeling of pressure on the forehead or temples, tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles.

Tension type headaches are classified as episodic and chronic.

Episodic tension headaches

Episodic tension headaches can vary in length from 30 minutes to one week. Frequent episodic tension headaches occur less than fifteen days per month over a period of three months. Frequent episodic tension headaches can become chronic.

Chronic tension headaches

The pain may last hours and may be continuous. Headaches which occur more than fifteen days in a month for a period of three months are considered chronic tension headaches.

Are tension and migraine headaches similar?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to differentiate between tension type headaches and migraines. Some people suffer both migraines and tension type headaches simultaneously.

Tension headaches are not associated with nausea, vomiting and visual problems like migraines. Although physical activity aggravates migraines, it does not affect tension headaches adversely. Sensitivity to light and sound can occur in both, but they are less common in tension headaches.

When should you consult a neurologist?

Tension headaches can have an adverse impact on your quality of life. If you have to resort to taking medication for a headache twice or more per week then you should consult a neurologist.

When should you seek emergency treatment?

You must consult your doctor as soon as possible if you experience a sudden, severe headache, a temperature, stiff neck, confusion, fatigue, double vision, numbness or difficulty talking. If your headache gets worse, particularly if it has developed after a head injury then you must visit your doctor.

The causes of tension headaches are unknown. It is thought that is they are caused by increased emotions or stress causing the contraction of the muscles in the face, neck and scalp. However, some research has shown that muscle contractions are not a significant cause.

The most common theory is that people who suffer from tension headaches have a heightened sensitivity to pain. Increased muscle tenderness, and contracted muscles are one of the most common symptoms of tension headaches. It is thought that these symptoms may result from a sensitized pain system.

Tension headaches occur frequently therefore its effect on productivity and general quality of life is significant. Frequent headaches can have a severe impact on your quality of life rendering you unable to participate in daily activities.

Diagnosis

If you have chronic or recurring headaches, your doctor may be able to identify the cause of your pain after a physical and neurological examination.

Your doctor can learn a lot from a description of your pain. Be sure to include these details.

Pain characteristics play an important role in the diagnosis. For example, does your head throb? Is it consistent or dull? Is it sharp or stabbing?

Pain intensity: One of the best ways to determine intensity is to see how possible it is for you to work while you have a headache. Are you able to work? Do your headaches wake you up or prevent you from sleeping?

Pain location: Is it on one side of your head only or do you feel pain all over your head? Is the pain located only on your forehead or behind your eyes?

Imaging Tests

If you have a headache which is suspected to be a secondary headache or if your neurological examination results in further testing required your doctor may request tests to rule out other serious causes of pain.

These tests are:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Blood biochemistry