Tension headaches are very common and occur in up to 80 percent of the population. Around 3 percent of people have tension headaches. These are called chronic tension headaches. Women are more likely to have tension headaches.
If you are having frequent headaches it’s important to go to the doctor because there are other conditions that can cause headaches and you should have a correct diagnosis first.
Symptoms of Tension Headache
• Mild or moderate pressure around the forehead
• Chronic tension headaches can cause a throbbing pain and often hurt more than occasional headaches
• Your eyes may be mildly sensitive to light.
What Causes Tension Headaches?
Tension headaches are caused by a variety of things, but are largely down to stress and poor posture. Feeling upset and crying can trigger them, as can anxiety or depression. Other causes include lack of sleep and over exertion.
If you work many hours at a computer, you may be sitting in the wrong position. Tight neck and shoulder muscles can cause tension headache.
Ways to Ease Your Tension Headaches
If they are down to stress or depression, see if you can set aside some time for you each day, for instance, a relaxing soak in the tub where you aren’t going to get interrupted, a nap during the day ("power napping" even for only 10 minutes can be helpful) or a walk. Fresh air can sometimes dissipate headaches.
If you are very depressed, lean on your family and friends and seek the help of a doctor and qualified counselor, who will help you find ways of coping.
If you are a busy mom, ask your partner or a relative to look after your children for an hour in the evenings so you can do something for you.
If your schedule is just too full, see if there are any areas in which you can cut down on your activities, for instance, reducing your working hours or cutting out an evening class. See if you can delegate duties to other members of your family, for instance, by having a rota for household chores.
If you work at a computer, make sure you take regular breaks and use a V-shaped cushion for posture support. Massage can help relieve tight muscles.
Treatments for Tension Headaches
Minimizing stress may prevent a tension headache from occurring, but if you are having chronic headaches (and you have been to the doctor to rule out other possibilities) you may want to try treatments to relieve the pain.
These are common pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If they don’t help, your doctor may prescribe something stronger, for instance, codeine and a muscle relaxant.
He may suggest a preventive treatment instead. These are antidepressants or anti-convulsant drugs. They work by shutting down the nerve’s response so that you don’t feel a headache, but you have to take them every day for them to work.
Alternative therapies can also help.
Tension Headaches, Medicine Net. Web. 16 September 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/tension_headache/article.htm
Muscle Contraction Tension Headache, Medscape Reference. Web. 16 September 2011.
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.
She is a mother of five who practised drug-free home birth, delayed cord clamping, full term breast feeding, co-sleeping, home schooling and flexi schooling and is an advocate of raising children on organic food.
Reviewed September 16, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith