Tension headaches are the most common form of headache. These headaches are often caused by stress and muscle tension. Tension headaches don’t usually cause nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. Tension headaches can cause a constant ache rather than a throbbing sensation and they tend to affect both the left and right sides of your head. They can be chronic and occur frequently or daily.
What causes tension headaches?
It is unknown what causes tension headaches. Many factors, including genetics and the environment, may be involved in a tension headache. Tension headaches are thought to be caused by muscle contractions in the neck and head. Tension headaches can be caused by stressful situations or busy days.
What are the signs and symptoms of tension headaches?
These are all symptoms of tension headaches:
The headaches start slowly
Both sides of the head usually hurt.
The pain feels dull, or like a band around the head.
The back of the neck or the top of the head may be affected by pain
Most pain is mild to moderate, but it’s not severe. Tension headaches can look similar to other medical conditions. For a diagnosis, always consult your healthcare provider.
How can tension headaches be diagnosed?
Tension headaches can be diagnosed primarily based on your symptoms. To rule out other conditions or diseases, a thorough medical exam may be required.
It is important to track your headaches and share them with your healthcare provider in order to make an accurate diagnosis.
Common questions during an exam include:
What are the signs of headaches?
Where is the headache located?
How do headaches feel?
How long can the headaches last?
Are there any changes in personality or behavior?
Are there any changes in your position or how you sit up that caused a headache?
Are you having trouble sleeping?
Are you prone to stress?
Are you a victim of a head injury?
No further testing may be necessary if the history indicates tension headaches but the neurological exam is normal. If the headache is not the problem, other tests may be required to diagnose the root cause.
Blood tests. To check for underlying conditions, blood tests and other lab tests can be performed.
Sinus X-rays. A diagnostic imaging test that can detect congestion, infection, and other potential problems.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) This is a procedure that makes detailed images of organs and structures within the body using large magnets, radiofrequency, and a computer.
Computed Tomography scan (also known as a CT scan or CAT scan). A method that uses X-rays and a computer in order to create horizontal images of the body (often called slices). A CT scan provides detailed images of every part of the body including bones, muscles, and fat. CT scans can provide more detail than standard X-rays.
Treatment of Tention Headaches
The goal of treatment should be to prevent headaches from ever happening. Stress and tension can be reduced to help manage headaches. Here are some suggestions:
Every day, you wake up and go to sleep at the same moment.
Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes each day
Regular meals, including breakfast, without skipping.
Avoid headache triggers such as certain foods or lack of sleep.
Resting in a quiet, dark environment as needed
Yoga, massage or other relaxation techniques can be used to manage stress.
Your healthcare provider may recommend medicine
How to Avoid Tension Headaches
Avoiding triggers that can cause tension headaches is possible by identifying and avoiding them. It is important to have a regular sleeping, exercise, and eating schedule. Treatments such as biofeedback, relaxation therapy, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and relaxation therapy may be helpful if tension headaches are frequent or severe. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about medications to prevent tension headaches.
Tension Headaches Facts
Tension headaches are the most common form of headache.
Tension headaches are not known to cause nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity.
Tension headaches can affect both sides of the head and come on slowly. They are described as a tightening or vice around your head.
Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, sleep and meal times can help to reduce or prevent headaches.
Talk to your healthcare provider about medications that can be used to prevent or treat tension headaches.
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