What is tension headache?
One of the most common headaches experienced by adults is the tension headache or the stress headache. It is characterized by a dull pain in the head and behind the eyes, sometimes the back of the neck, and a feeling of pressure around the forehead. The person experiencing the headache feels like his head is being squeezed by a clamp. The pain is usually mild to moderate as opposed to the throbbing pain experienced during a migraine.
Why does tension headache occur?
There is no one cause for tension headaches. Numerous factors can come into play such as:
- stress related to personal and professional life
- emotional anxiety
- mental anxiety
- staring at a computer screen for a long time
- excessive smoking and drinking
- drinking too much caffeine
- iron deficiency
- sinus infection
- inadequate sleep or insomnia
- skipping meals
Tension headaches are generally of two types:
- Episodic Tension Headaches - which can last from half an hour to a week. Episodic Tension Headaches occur less than 15 days in a month. If the Episodic Tension Headaches occur more frequently then they become Chronic Tension Headaches.
- Chronic Tension Headaches - last for hours on end and occur 15 or more days in a month continuously.
If tension headaches disrupt your daily routine and you need to take medicines as frequently as twice or thrice a week you need to consult your family physician or a general physician.
If your headache suddenly becomes severe and you begin to slur while talking, or experience seizures, you need to contact a doctor without delay. Your headache, in this case, could be a symptom for a more serious underlying cause such as an aneurysm, brain tumour, or a stroke.
What are the symptoms of a tension headache? How is a tension headache diagnosed?
The symptoms of a tension headache include:
- pain and pressure on the forehead, temples and top of the head
- sensitivity to light and sound
- people are able to go about their daily business despite the pain which is not incapacitating
- trouble focusing
- tenderness on scalp, shoulder, and neck muscles
No specific test is required to diagnose a tension headache. The diagnosis is usually based on your history of headaches, and particular times the headaches start for example, after a stressful time at work, being hungry for a long period etc.
Your doctor may ask you to take a regular blood test to rule out any abnormality and to find out if there is any iron deficiency. Other than that no CT Scan or MRI is required.
What are the complications of tension headache?
The complications of tension headache are usually the inconvenience caused by the symptoms, such as:
- lack of attention and focus which can affect your performance at work
- reduced desire to perform any task
- feeling of exhaustion
- disruption in social life
What is the treatment for tension headache?
Medical Treatments For Tension Headache
Usually over the counter medication is available for tension headaches, which are effective.
If you suffer from chronic tension headaches, your doctor may prescribe you some medications to reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. These medicines can also include antidepressants, based on your condition.
Exercising for Managing tension Headache
Exercising will not only help build your muscles, it will also energise your mind and make it fit to cope with any stressful environment. So take some time out to go for that brisk walk whilst observing nature, or for zumba dancing, or aerobics, or for a swim. You’ll find your headaches melting away.
Better still, you can practice the king of all relaxation techniques, Yoga. Yoga will help release the tensions in any area of your body and help you relax physically, as well as mentally.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
1.7– 4% adult population affected by tension headaches every 15 days
1.7– 4% of the world’s adult population is affected by tension headache 15 or more days every month.
70% people affected by episodic tension headaches
70 % of some populations report of episodic tension headaches, occurring fewer than 15 days per month.
Women experience more tension headaches
Women are more affected than men by tension headache which is the most common form of headache.