Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headaches with pain radiating from the lower back of the head, neck, eyes and other muscle groups in the body. Tension headaches account for nearly 90% of all headaches with 3% of the population suffering from chronic tension-type headaches. However, despite the high occurrence in the population, it’s the least studied of the primary headache disorders.
TENSION HEADACHE SYMPTOMS
Tension headaches fall into three categories: infrequent episodic, frequent episodic and chronic. Infrequent episodic tension headaches occur once a month. Frequent episodic tension headaches occur more than once, but fewer than 15 times a month for three or more months. Chronic tension headaches occur 15 days or more a month that last for at least 6 months and may bring slight nausea. Tension-type headaches can last anywhere from minutes to days, months or years. A typical tension headache usually lasts between four and six hours.
Common tension headache symptoms are:
- Dull head pain
- Pressure around the forehead
- Tenderness around the forehead and scalp
HOW ARE TENSION HEADACHES DIAGNOSED?
While there is no easy way to diagnose a tension headache, a successful diagnosis can be achieved by reviewing personal and family medical history, studying current symptoms and receiving a proper medical examination. A tension-type headache can then be diagnosed by ruling out other causes.
HOW ARE TENSION HEADACHES TREATED?
If the number of tension headache episodes increase into the frequent or chronic range, preventive treatment can be recommended.
Treatment for tension headache episodes include:
- Aspirin (for adults)
- Acetaminophen/caffeine combinations
- Muscle relaxants
The most commonly used preventive medications are:
- Muscle relaxants
- Antidepressants such as amitriptyline
Other methods that compliment the above treatment methods are often employed to treat tension headaches, including:
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy