Tension Headaches – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What Are Tension Headaches?

 

Tension headaches are commonly described as a sensation that resembles tying up a rubber band around one’s head and then tightening it.

 

These headaches occur due to volatile contractions in facial, head and neck muscles.

 

People afflicted by tension headaches can experience varying levels of pain in their head, their eyes, and their neck.

 

Tension headaches are the most common category of headaches.

 

About 80 percent of the population of the USA is reported to have experienced tension headaches.

 

They are primarily episodic in nature, patients usually experience an average estimate of one or two tension headaches every month.

 

However, they can also sometimes manifest themselves in a more perilous chronic form. These can result in episodes of severe headaches that can last over 15 days on an average month.

 

A study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic revealed that nearly 3 percent of American citizens are found to experience chronic tension headaches. Additionally, the survey also indicated that among the subjects that were found to have experienced tension headaches in their lifetime, the number of women was nearly double that of men.

 

Tension Headaches affect almost 20.8 percent of the human population, which accounts for 1.4 billion people.

 

Studies show varying reports of lifetime prevalence of Tension Headaches, and they range from 30 percent to 78 percent.

 

What Are The Causes and Triggers for Tension Headaches?

 

The muscular contractions that cause Tension Headaches to occur can be triggered by a number of different factors. These include:

 

  1. Food habits: There are several food items that can induce Tension Headaches in an individual. These include caffeine, meat, alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and even chocolate.                                                              Other than that, skipping meals or not eating on time can also cause Tension Headaches.

 

  1. Dehydration: Excessive perspiration or less than adequate intake of water can also result in Tension Headaches.

 

  1. Sleep deprivation: It is important to prioritize a good night’s sleep in one’s daily schedule, since less than adequate sleep can lead to severe Tension Headaches.

 

 

  1. Bad posturing: If a person sits, stands or lies down in an uncomfortable or uneasy posture for a considerable period of time, they may be susceptible to intense Tension Headaches.

 

  1. Strenuous Eye Activity: Staring at a television screen or a laptop window or a mobile phone for hours at an end can cause strain to the human eye. This can be a trigger for Tension Headaches. The eyes being dried up due to dehydration can also be a possible factor.

 

  1. Catching a Cold: The occurrence of Tension Headaches are observed to hike during cold weather. This is because people suffering from common cold, influenza or sinus infections are more prone to come down with a Tension Headache.

 

  1. Stress and Fatigue: The role that emotional well-being plays in the health and physiology of a human being is often overlooked.

 

Distress and anxiety in one’s day-to-day life and exhaustion due to excessive   labor can be a significant trigger for Tension Headaches. People suffering from mental illnesses such as depression are observed to be more susceptible to Tension Headaches.

 

 

 

What Are The Symptoms For Tension Headaches?

 

The symptoms for Tension Headaches are not as vivid or explicit as the symptoms for other categories of headaches such as migraine, and therefore they are harder to define.

 

Tension headaches generally do not cause weakness, blurry vision or stomach issues such as nausea or vomiting.

 

Some common symptoms that may indicate that a person is suffering from Tension Headaches include:

 

  1. Being in a constant feeling of irrational annoyance.

 

  1. Excessive fatigue and exhaustion.

 

  1. Lack of concentration and focus, and a short attention span.

 

  1. Muscle pains and hurting shoulders and neck.

 

  1. Sensations of uneasiness or varying levels of pressure and pain around the sides of the head and in the eyes.

 

  1. Being sensitive to noises or bright light.

 

  1. Mild headaches that occur periodically near the evening.

 

Tension Headache - Diagnosis & Treatment

 

How Is Tension Headache Diagnosed?

 

Tension Headaches often go undiagnosed owing to the lack of awareness pertaining to the gravity of the illness.

 

The process of diagnosis of Tension Headaches involves a physical examination of the symptoms displayed by the patient.

 

The physician will also take nto account the medical history of the patient, and whether they have experienced episodic Tension Headaches multiple times in the past.

 

The physician may also run tests such as CT scan, MRI scan, and X-ray on the patient so as to rule out possibilities of other diseases and complications in the internal organs of the patient, for example, a brain tumor.

 

 

What Is The Treatment For Tension Headaches?

Here are some of the common remedial measures for Tension Headaches as prescribed by physicians:

 

  1. Over The Counter (OTC) painkillers and prescription pain relievers or muscle relaxants are generally prescribed to people with chronic Tension Headaches. These medicines cause relief when severe headaches occur.

 

  1. Anti-depressants and medications for controlling blood pressure are also sometimes prescribed, given the patient’s particular condition. These drugs can prevent Tension Headaches from occurring.

 

  1. The physician may also advise relaxation techniques like meditation, stress management classes or physical exercise.

 

Dr. Dwaipayan Sen


FRCP(Glasgow) MRCP Geriatrics, Clinical Lead Comprehensive Stroke Services, Manchester Centre for Clinical Neurosciences

Dr. Dwaipayan Sen is a Consultant Stroke Physician and Clinical Lead for Comprehensive Stroke Services (Salford Hope Hospital, UK)

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