Tension headaches are thought to be one of the most common types of headaches. However, does this mean that we should accept them as a normal part of life and learn to live with them? Thankfully, the answer to that is no, and we will learn more about what can be done to alleviate tension headaches later on in the article.
The exact reason tension headaches occur is not well understood. However, there are many factors that seem to contribute to tension headaches, such as the following:
- Impaired sleep
- Skipping meals
Some other causes of tension headaches might be attributed to various conditions. Things like eye strain, vision problems, overexertion, and poor posture leading to muscle strain can all be blamed for tension headaches.
Tension headaches are not the same as migraines. Migraines can be triggered by certain foods or physical exertion, but tension headaches usually are not caused by these things. Sometimes you may experience a migraine and a tension headache together. In fact, in some people, a tension headache may be a trigger for a migraine. In addition, migraines are known for light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and one-sided head pain. These are not associated with tension headaches.
What Exactly Is a Tension Headache?
The term headache is often thrown around in our everyday language because it is so common. Sometimes we even joke about giving each other a headache. But when you are actually experiencing one, it is no laughing matter. When we hear people talking about having a headache, they are probably talking about having a tension headache, also called a stress headache. Nearly 50 percent of adults have had some type of a headache in the last year. Thankfully, these headaches were described as mild and short-lived, meaning they were probably tension headaches.
Women usually have tension headaches about twice as often as men. Children and teens experience tension headaches as well. In fact, a significant percentage will have a tension headache by the age of 15.
Tension Headaches — The Symptoms
Most often, tension headaches are short-lived and occur infrequently. They usually resolve within a few minutes to a few hours. In some rare instances, a headache may last for a few days. If your tension headaches are happening more than 15 days in a month’s time, they are called chronic tension headaches.
The pain of tension headaches is described in the following ways:
- Coming and going in severity
- Impacting the entire head but often beginning more in the back or above the eyebrows
- Feeling like a cap or band-like sensation wrapping around the skull
- Feeling like muscle tension in the neck or shoulder region
- Constant and pressure-like
- Coming on gradually and even at its worst is not incapacitating
- Not severe enough to impact daily routines and activities
- Very rarely causing sensitivity to light and sound
Diagnosing Tension Headaches
A diagnosis is given based on your symptoms along with a physical examination. No test can confirm or deny tension headaches. Most generally, it is not recommended to do a CT scan or an MRI as these usually aren’t necessary. Some blood work may be ordered to rule out any underlying cause.
Caring for Tension Headaches
One way to ease the frequency of tension headaches is to make sure you are keeping stress to a minimum in your life. This is easier said than done, but it can be accomplished. Here are some stress management techniques:
- Exercise: This can be a key to compensating for stressors in your life. Not only does exercise help with physical fitness, it helps you manage your stress as well. Exercise also helps you to sleep better. It also can remove you for a short time from the stressful situation or environment.
- Relaxation techniques: These help to control stress and improve your mental and physical well-being.
- Biofeedback: This is one method of learning to control stress responses and modify the body’s reactions by monitoring information that is not normally available. Monitoring breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure and learning to control these things can be valuable in stress control.
- Imagery: Sometimes called guided imagery, this is using pleasant, calming images to help your mind and body relax. This is easy to learn, and anyone can do it.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tightening and relaxing the muscles in progression. It does not require any special skills or conditioning and anyone can learn to do it. It is suggested to do this for 10 to 20 minutes per day. Practice and patience are required.
Finding Natural Relief for Headaches
One area that is seeing much success in caring for headaches is that of upper cervical chiropractic care. It has been noted through various case studies that a misaligned bone in the neck area can be the root cause of headaches. This can be due to the bones acting as a blockage and hindering the flow of cerebrospinal fluid flow and oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The brainstem can also be put under stress and may begin sending improper signals to the brain. Either of these can lead to headaches.
Here at Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center in Cedar Park, Texas, we use a gentle method that does not require us to pop or crack the neck in order to get positive results. Instead, we encourage the bones of the neck to move back into place more naturally, which leads to a longer-lasting adjustment. Once the problem in the neck is corrected, many people see their headaches become a thing of the past.
To schedule a complimentary consultation call our Cedar Park, TX office at 512-572-3976. You can also click the button below. If you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.