Although tension headaches are the most common type of headache they still are not very well understood and doctors aren’t quite sure what actually cause tension headaches. In the past experts had believed that spasms in a person’s face, neck, and/or head played a role in causing tension headaches. However, many now think that they are caused by changes in a person’s brain chemicals.
What Are the Symptoms of a Tension Headache?
A tension headache can be either mild or it can cause a moderate amount of pain. These types of headaches, although constant, are not throbbing.
As opposed to migraines, which are felt on one side of the head, you will feel pressure or pain on both sides of your head when you experience a tension headache.
Your temples and/or the back of your neck and head will ache. The pressure can make you feel as if your head is between the jaws of a vise that keeps on tightening.
For the most part tension headaches feel as if you have a band around your head that keeps on tightening. It also feels as if the headache is spreading throughout your skull.
If you are under stress and you have a tension headache then you can expect your headache to return. And when they do, they usually last anywhere from half an hour to several days.
Although annoying, for the majority of people the pain usually isn’t severe enough to affect their work or their social lives. However, for some people, the pain can last a long time and it can be very bad.
Doctors can often diagnose these headaches by performing an examination and then asking a number of probing questions concerning your lifestyle and your health.
If you have these headaches at least half of each month they are called chronic tension headaches.
How Are Tension Headaches Treated?
Most people tend to treat these headaches themselves with over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
If you take these kinds of pain relievers more than three times per week you could get rebound headaches, which are different than tension headaches.
A rebound headache often begins once the pain medication has worn off and you take some more of it. However, if you continue with this pain/medication cycle, it can get to the point that you will get a headache any time you stop taking the medicine.
If you have chronic tension headaches then your doctor might prescribe some stronger medication for you that could alleviate your pain.
How Can You Prevent Tension Headaches?
It may be possible to prevent these headaches and/or make them less severe when they happen by learning how to handle stress. In addition, make sure that you exercise, get enough sleep, and eat regularly.
Sit upright and, in general, be aware of your posture. And if you find yourself in front of a computer for hours at a time make sure to take breaks and try not to strain your eyes.
If you find that you are getting these headaches quite often you should write down the day and hour that they occur and make notes about what you were doing and how you felt right before the headache began. This information could help your doctor get to the root of what has been causing the headaches so he or she can then more easily prescribe the right treatment.
Finally, if you’re getting these headaches and you’re feeling anxious or depressed, make sure that you get treated by a medical professional.