What is a tension headache?
A tension headache is a headache caused by tense muscles in your face, neck, or scalp. It is also sometimes called a muscle-contraction headache. Tension headaches are very common.
How does it occur?
The muscles of your face, neck, and scalp may become tense because of:
anxiety or stress
staying in one position for a long time
injury–for example, from a car accident
Headaches can also be triggered by:
having too little or too much sleep
eating too little or too much
drinking too much alcohol or going through alcohol withdrawal
being somewhere that is too noisy
some medical conditions
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms may be:
a feeling like a tight band is around your head
an ache or dull and steady pain felt at the temples or affecting the whole head that worsens through the day, sometimes with a sore or stiff neck
pain that starts or gets worse with stress, tiredness, noise, or glare
Your muscles might twitch or spasm. Sometimes your head may feel like it is throbbing.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. No single test can confirm that a headache is a tension headache. The diagnosis is based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam.
Your healthcare provider may ask:
When did the headache start?
How bad is it?
Where is the pain located?
What kind of pain is it? Is it sharp, burning, or throbbing?
Do you have other symptoms, such as nerve tingling or weakness?
Do you have a fever?
Do you feel sick or vomit?
Do you have eye pain or vision changes?
Did you have an accident or injury before the pain started?
Did you take any drugs before the pain started?
Have you had other headaches like this one?
What stresses are you having?
What is your family history for headaches?
Sometimes it can be hard for you to know if a headache is a tension headache or a mild migraine headache.
How is it treated?
You can reduce muscle tightness and relieve pain with:
nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
warm bath or hot shower
regular physical exercise.
If the pain continues, your healthcare provider might:
Refer you for Osteopathic treatment.
Recommend biofeedback therapy (use of a machine to help you learn to control muscle tension).
Prescribe a stronger pain reliever.
How long will the effects last?
Symptoms usually last a few hours to a day.
Taking pain medicine too often for headaches can cause headaches. These headaches are called rebound headaches or drug-induced headaches. It can create a bad cycle: You have a headache, so you take pain medicine. When the pain medicine wears off it causes another headache, which causes you to take more medicine, which causes another headache.
You are at risk for rebound headaches if you take pain medicine 3 or more days a week. Examples of nonprescription medicines that can cause rebound headaches are aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Some prescribed pain medicines can also cause this problem. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking medicine for headaches more often than 2 or 3 times a week.
How can I take care of myself?
Rest in a quiet, dark room until symptoms lessen or go away.
Take a pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine your healthcare provider recommends or prescribes. Do this as soon as you notice symptoms. Recognizing early warning signs of headache and starting treatment right away is crucial to having less pain.
Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
Stretch and massage your neck, shoulders, and back. Put heat, an ice pack, or a cold washcloth on these areas.
See your healthcare provider right away if:
You have much more pain than your usual headaches and it does not go away.
You have repeated vomiting.
You have numbness or tingling in your face, arms, or legs.
Your arms or legs feel weak.
You have trouble seeing, thinking, talking, or walking.
What can be done to help prevent tension headaches?
Try to identify and avoid situations that cause tension or stress. Consider getting counseling to help you reduce the stress in your life.
Take breaks from tasks and learn to use relaxation techniques.
Get enough sleep.
Try not to push yourself too hard.
Eat meals regularly.
Do not smoke.
Do not drink a lot of alcohol.
Keep your sense of humor. This reduces tension.
- Massage Therapy Relieves Tension Headaches (massageenvy.com)
- Relief For Tension and Migraine Headache Sufferers (massageenvy.com)
- Headache – What Can YOU Do? (elderlysecurity.com)
- Q&A: What can I do about headaches during pregnancy? | BabyZone (babyzone.com)
- What Is a Rebound Headache? (everydayhealth.com)
Posted on December 26, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Aspirin, Headache, Medication overuse headache, Medicine, Migraine, Muscle, Pain management, Pepto-Bismol, Tension headache. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.