What is a tension headache?
Tension headaches are the most common form of headaches; they’re often described as a mild to moderate pain, and feel like a tight band around the head. Tension headaches are said to be chronic if they occur more than 15 times per month. Over 90% of women report suffering from tension headaches at some point in their lives versus 70% of men. Tension headaches are most common for middle-aged people, presumably because of the connection to stress.
What causes a tension headache?
Tension headaches can be set off in response to some sort of habitual trigger, including:
- Staring at a screen for too long or working under great stress
- Certain foods and beverages can also trigger pain
- Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine (consumption or withdrawal)
Pain from these headaches is usually dull and all over the head. A tight, band-like feeling in the forehead can also accompany the pain. Along with these primary symptoms, people with tension headaches often report secondary ailments, such as irritability, disrupted concentration, and sensitivity to noise or light.
The rapidly developing field of alternative medicine is also invested in treating tension headaches. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and biofeedback have become viable treatment options for chronic headaches.
Doctors consider patients’ environments when determining the nature of tension headaches. Paying attention to surrounding factors can help identify possible triggers of tension headaches. Writing down behavior and feelings that accompany head pain in a headache journal is a popular exercise for frequent sufferers. By identifying these triggers, doctors are able to recommend subtle lifestyle changes that will reduce the number of tension headaches in a patient. Whether it’s perfecting posture or squeezing a stress ball, small changes can produce a great tension decrease.
Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen and aspirin can temporarily relieve pain and sometimes outlast the headache altogether. Doctors note that patients with frequent tension headaches should not go to this route too often, as these quick-fix drugs can backfire by actually causing overuse headaches. Also, doctors can prescribe antidepressants and muscle relaxants as preventative medications for chronic headaches.