Tension Headache – Causes, Symptoms and Relief Treatment

Ever had a feeling as if there is a tight band around your forehead? It might probably be a tension headache. It is the most common type of headache and women are twice as likely as men to get affected by these. It is usually a dull, moderate pain in the neck, head, and back of the eyes. It is generally diagnosed in adults and is of two types- Episodic tension headache and Chronic tension headache. The headache which occurs for less than 15 days in a month comes under episodic tension headache and that which happens more than 15 days is known as a chronic tension headache.

Tension headaches can last anywhere between 30 minutes to a few days. Episodic tension headaches begin gradually and mostly in the middle of the day. Chronic tension headaches can be present throughout the day with different range of severity. Though your head hurts, tension headaches do not interfere with your daily activities by impairing your balance, vision or strength. The episodic type is the most common and tends to occur once or twice in a month. 

Causes : 

  • People can suffer from tension headaches by staring at their computer screens for a long time. 
  • There is no particular cause for tension headaches as they can be due to built-up stress either from work, family, friends or relationships.
  • Episodic tension headaches can be caused by a single stressful situation but daily stress can lead to chronic tension headaches.
  • They can also be caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions.
  • Your food intake and daily activities can also be responsible for a tension headache.
  • Excess consumption of alcohol and caffeine can lead to tension headache in addition to smoking.
  • Anxiety, depression, flu, cold, fatigue, low iron levels, dry eyes, sinus poor posture, and emotional stress can be triggered to a tension headache.  

Symptoms : 

  • Pressure or pain the top, sides and front areas of the head 
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Not being able to focus
  • Trouble falling asleep  
  • Irritation 
  • Sensitivity to light and noise in rare cases

Treatment : 

It is better to treat tension headaches in the early stages so that they do not turn into chronic headaches. You can use over-the-counter medications for immediate relief but it is not recommended to use them every time you get a headache. Aspirin and ibuprofen are the OTC medications you get in any medical store and their overuse can rebound headaches. Which means you get used to the medication so much that once it wears off, you will experience the pain again. In case the OTC medications are not enough, your doctor may prescribe other medicines like ketorolac, indomethacin, acetaminophen, opiates, naproxen, etc. 

Also Read: Ophthalmodynia Periodica – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

If your tension headache is due to a muscle contraction, then the doctor might prescribe muscle relaxants over painkillers. Certain drugs like antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and blood pressure medicines may keep you away from getting a tension headache. Using them daily can help you lessen your use of medication over time. Antidepressants such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) can help you cope up with the stress by releasing a hormone called serotonin,  commonly known as the happy hormone. 

There are also other techniques you can practice for stress management like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, biofeedback and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). You can also ease your tension headache at home in several ways like applying an ice pack on your head for 5-10 minutes or taking a hot water bath to relax your muscles, improving body posture and preventing your eyes from getting strained by taking occasional breaks from your computer. 

Keep in mind that, no drug is ideal. You will have to face its side effects as well when you take them frequently. Moreover, these drugs tend to get adapted to your pain with time and can no longer be effective. Consult a doctor before taking medications as the headache can also be due to a migraine. Manage your stress and balance your professional and personal life to stay away from tension headaches.

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