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Tension headache


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Tension headache or stress headache is the most commonly occurring headache and almost every adult has experienced it at some point of their life. Day-to-day work, stress, travelling, etc. result in the pain which lasts for a significant period or happens sporadically.

Chronic tension headache lasts for about 15 days or more and the pain is continuous while episodic type tension headache lasts for a shorter duration i.e. of about half an hour and can repeat at an interval of 15 days or months after.


Symptoms associated with tension headache

The headache is diffuse and dull that might radiate from your neck and spread towards the shoulder. Certainly, your entire head might pain or throb or it could be localized only to your forehead and temples.

In case of chronic headache you will feel the pain generally around the sides, front and back of your head.

Along with headache you might experience pain and strain in your eyes- you might squint or feel like keeping them closed.


Causes of tension headache

The exact reason behind tension headaches is not properly known although doctors assume that it could result from contraction of muscles in the back or neck. It’s important to note that tension headaches might run in families.

Trigger factors for tension headaches are:

  • Mental and emotional stress from work, family issues, money matters, over thinking, and similar other reasons
  •  Students usually have such headaches before exams and competitions
  •  Lack of sleep, fatigue, over physical exertion and travelling
  •  Bad work posture and working long hours before computer
  •  Lack of nutrition and staying hungry for long time


When to see a doctor?

You generally tend to ignore our daily headaches as they disappear spontaneously or with pain killers. However, you should see a doctor if you are having this kind of headache frequently in a month and your performance is getting affected. You can take steps to prevent the episodic headaches from becoming chronic.


Diagnosis of tension headache

To understand that your headache is exclusively tension-type (and not migraine or sinus headache), your doctor will carefully evaluate the symptoms pertaining to the pain. You have to explain the type of pain (throbbing, dull, or sharp), its recurrence period and the intensity. Your doctor will ask you several questions regarding your lifestyle, diet and other possible trigger factors that possibly are leading to the pain.

If it’s a serious case of tension headache then your doctor might advice CT scan or MRI of your brain.


Treatment of tension headache

First line of treatment is OTC pain killers and specific dose would be prescribed to you.

The next goal would be to eliminate the cause of the pain and for that you might be given combination of mild sedatives, anti depressants or muscle relaxants.

Apart from that your doctor will advice you on stress management which could be achieved by counseling, biofeedback therapies, relaxation techniques like acupuncture, yoga and massage therapies and some home remedies.


Home remedies for tension headache

Remember pain killers are not permanent solution for tension headache, rather you need to improve upon your lifestyle to manage stress and tension.

  • Massage your head or opt for hot oil massage from a therapist for relief
  • Practice breathing techniques everyday for 15 minutes combined with meditation
  • At office- Stare away from the computer, splash water on your face and eyes. Maintain ergonomic work posture.
  • Compress your face with a towel soaked in warm water or soak yourself in warm water bath to relax the muscles of your back and neck. 

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: September 28, 2014