Stop Tension Headaches

By: Juliet Cohen


Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches. Tension headaches can occur when the patient also has a migraine. Tension-type headaches account for nearly 90% of all headaches. Approximately 3% of population suffers from chronic-tension type headache. Tension-type headaches can be episodic or chronic. Episodic tension-type headaches are defined as tension-type headaches occurring less than 15 days a month, whereas chronic tension headaches occur 15 days or more a month for at least 6 months. Tension-type headaches can last from minutes to days or even months, though a typical tension headache lasts 4-6 hours. Other causes include eye strain, fatigue, alcohol use, excessive smoking, excessive caffeine use, sinus infection, nasal congestion, overexertion, colds, and influenza. Tension headaches are not associated with structural abnormalities in the brain. Tension headaches result from the contraction (tensing) of neck and scalp muscles. One cause of this muscle contraction is a response to stress, depression, head injury, or anxiety.

Tension-type headache is the most common type of chronic recurring head pain. Sleeping in a cold room or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position may also trigger this type of headache. Tension headache may be made worse by jaw pain from clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism) or by head trauma, such as a blow to the head or whiplash injury. People with stiff joints and muscles due to arthritis of the neck or inflammation of the shoulder joints may develop tension headache. Treatment depends on the type of headaches. One reason is that tension headache usually is easy to treat with over-the-counter medications. Analgesics are pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in reducing headache pain. Aspirin or acetaminophen (or both of these analgesics) are often combined with caffeine or a sedative drug in a single medication.

Combination drugs such as this may be more effective than are pure analgesics for pain relief. Avoid situations that may cause a tension headache. Use good posture when reading, working, or involved in activities that may cause a headache. Exercise the neck and shoulders frequently. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxil), venlafaxine (Effexor) and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) produce fewer side effects than do the tricyclic antidepressants but generally are less reliable in preventing headache. Acute therapy aims to stop or reduce the pain of an existing headache attack. Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or biking, can help reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. These include codeine combined with acetaminophen and oxycodone. Massage. Massage is a wonderful way to reduce stress and relieve tension. In some cases, short term use of prescription medications may be tried. Some patients respond to antidepressants or beta-blockers.

Tension Headaches Treatment Tips

1. Avoid situations that may cause a tension headache.

2. Use good posture when reading, working, or involved in activities that may cause a headache.

3. Exercise the neck and shoulders frequently.

4. Treatment for this type of headache usually includes nonprescription pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

5. Try to avoid sitting, standing or working in one position for long periods of time.

6. Do regular stretching and strengthening exercises for your neck and shoulders.

7. Applying heat or ice to sore muscles may ease the tension.

8. Use a heating pad set on low, a hot-water bottle, a warm compress or a hot towel.

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Juliet Cohen writes articles for depression clinic and how to treat depression. For more information visit our site at www.depression-clinic.com.

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