Overview on tension-type headaches

Tension-type headaches are the most prevalent form among adults. This type of headache arises periodically – episodic and chronic.

  • Episodic – lasts less than 15 days in a month that triggers mild to moderate, continuous, band-like pressure or pain that can last for 30 minutes to several days.
  • Chronic – lasts less than 15 days in a month

Who are affected by tension-type headaches?

tension-type-headaches
Around 30-80% of adults suffer from occasional episodes of tension-type headaches.

Around 30-80% of adults suffer from occasional episodes of tension-type headaches. The chronic tension-type headaches that arise daily affect around 3% of the population. Take note that women are likely than men to experience the headaches.

Many individuals with the episodic tension-type headaches might have episodes no more than once or twice in a month, but can occur more frequently.

Those with the chronic type generally have episodes for more than 60-90 days. These headaches can cause a negative effect on daily activities.

What are the causes?

There is no precise cause for tension-type headaches. This form of headache tends to run in families. In some, it is linked with constricted muscles in the back of the neck and scalp.

The muscular tension can be aggravated by:

  • Poor posture
  • Lack of adequate rest
  • Mental or emotional stress including depression

The headaches can also be triggered by some form of environmental or internal stress. The stress might or might not be known to the family or parent. The usual sources of stress include social relationships, family, work, friends and school.

Management

The tension-type headaches can be managed using various strategies such as:

  • Stress management/relaxation techniques – these include deep breathing exercises, mental imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and relaxation to music.
  • Counselling – this helps the individual identify his/her triggers and learn useful coping methods
  • Biofeedback – this involves using a series of sensors connected to the body which detect changes in the physical functions such as blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate or skin temperature. An immediate feedback is provided via a tone or display on a computer screen. This method helps the individual recognize that the body is tense, identify the cause and learn how to reduce the tension.
  • Medications – over-the-counter pain medications might be recommended such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin or naproxen to relieve the headaches. These medications should only be taken if needed.
  • Self-care measures

Regardless of the treatment used, tension-type headaches are ideally treated if the symptoms initially arise and are mild before they become more frequent and painful.

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