Tension headache is the most common type of headache.
Those who suffer from it describe it as the sensation of wearing a very tight band around the head, to the point that it makes it difficult to carry out various daily activities. Here we will look at why this problem occurs, how it differs from other headaches, and what can be done to relieve it.
What are the causes of tension headache
Although tension headache is the most common type of headache, its causes are not fully understood.
It used to be thought that it was due to muscular contractions in the face, neck and scalp, however, recent research has called this idea into question.
Currently, the most accepted theory is that people with tension headaches may have a more sensitized pain system. The triggers for this type of headache are many:
- Consume alcohol or caffeine in excess.
- Any activity that forces the head to maintain a single position for a long time.
- Sleeping in cold rooms or with the neck in an abnormal position.
- Suffer from colds, flu or sinus infections.
- Enduring constant exposure to physical or emotional stress.
- Being fatigued or overexerting yourself.
- Having dental problems, such as a very tight jaw or teeth grinding.
What symptoms does it cause?
There are many types of headaches that are differentiated by the area in which pain or discomfort occurs:
- Sinus headache: The pain usually occurs behind the forehead and/or cheekbones.
- cluster headache: Pain occurs in and around one eye.
- Migraine: The pain, which is usually concentrated on one side of the fall, is accompanied by nausea and visual changes.
- Foods and drinks that help calm the headache
In contrast, tension headache is characterized by causing a dull pain, similar to pressure around the head, although it can also be focused on a point or on the scalp. In turn, tension headache can be:
- Occasional: Headaches can last 30 minutes, and occur less than 15 days per month, for at least three months.
- ChronicleHeadaches last for hours and can be constant. Occur 15 days or more in a month, for at least three months.
How is a tension headache diagnosed?
If you present any of the symptoms developed above, you should consult a doctor. This can use different tests and tests to detect the type and cause of headaches:
- magnetic resonance imaging: Combines a magnetic field, radio waves, and computer technology to produce clear images.
- computed tomography: is an imaging procedure that uses a series of computer-directed x-rays to provide a complete image of the brain.
- description of the pain: the doctor will ask you if the pain is constant and dull, or sharp and stabbing; if it allows activities during its presence, or where it is located on the head.
What treatments are there for tension headaches?
Fortunately, there are many options for relieving the discomfort caused by a tension headache. For example, a health professional may recommend using medications, prescription or over-the-counter:
- Analgesics: aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others), or naproxen sodium (Aleve), among others.
- Triptans and narcotics: They are rarely used due to their side effects and the possibility of generating dependency.
- drug combination: Certain drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol, among others) or both, are often combined with caffeine or a sedative drug in a single medication. These types of combination medications can be more effective than single-ingredient pain relievers.
Despite their effectiveness, experts warn that the repeated use of these types of medications (especially when they are without a prescription) can cause other types of headaches. Therefore, a highly recommended treatment to relieve headache pain is to make lifestyle changes, mainly:
- Controlling stress: take time to relax, plan and organize your day in advance.
- exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy diet: rich in fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes.
- correct posture: This will help prevent the muscles from tensing up. As you stand up, keep your shoulders back and your head level, draw in your core and buttocks. When you sit, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor and your head isn’t hunched forward.
You can also resort to applying cold (wrapping ice or using a compress) or heat (using heating pads or hot towels) to the sore areas of the head.
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Alternative medicine is also often seen as an option to relieve headache pain. There is evidence that indicates that techniques such as acupuncture, massage therapy or deep breathing can be used with positive results as a complement to medical treatments to relieve headaches.
While all of these treatments are very effective in relieving tension headaches, experts stress the importance of working on headache prevention. To do this, keep in mind:
- biofeedback training: techniques that serve to control certain responses of the body and that help reduce pain.
- cognitive behavioral therapy: helps to learn to control stress and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
- Other relaxation techniques: yoga, deep breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation are techniques that promote relaxation and reduce the risk of headaches.
- Get enough sleep every day, if possible at regular times.
- No Smoking.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Limit the consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
Health professionals also advise:
Tension headaches usually respond well to medical treatment, however, if left untreated, they can eventually cause a variety of problems, including affecting job performance and overall quality of life.
Tension headache cases
It is difficult to determine the number of headaches that occur each year, because they are often not recognized correctly, they are underestimated or because a large part of those affected resort to self-medication to relieve pain, without leaving a record of this condition.
However, it is estimated that almost half of the adults in the world have suffered from headache at least once a year. In turn, only a minority of people who suffer from it receive an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Sources consulted: American Psychiatric Association, US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).