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Tension headache is the most common type of headache

If you’ve ever had a headache, the chances are it was a tension one. That’s because they’re the most common type of headache, affecting asmany as 8 out of 10 people.

The pain of tension headache can interfere with many aspects of your work and social life. They can occur at any age, although adults and adolescents are more likely to get them. They also affect slightly more women than men.

Is my headache a tension headache?

Q: Where do you feel the pain?

A: Tension headache pain is usually felt on both sides of the head and is often described as a tightening band around the head.

Q: Is the pain throbbing?

A: The pain of a tension headache is generally constant and does not throb.

Q: How bad is the pain?

A: Tension headache pain is usually mild or moderate in intensity.

Q: How long have you had your headache?

A: A tension headache can last anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 7 days.

Q: When you move, does your headache get worse?

A: Tension headaches don’t tend to get worse with exercise or movement.

Q: When you have a headache, do you also feel nausea or experience vomiting?

A: Nausea and vomiting are not typically associated with tension headaches.

Muscles are the source of tension headaches

Everyday things like stress and bad posture can make muscles in the head and neck become tense and knotted. Once this happens, chemicals are released inside the muscles, causing pain. But the pain doesn’t just stay where it starts. It travels up from the muscles into the head where it’s felt as a tension headache.

 

Preventing tension headaches

There are many ways you can help reduce tension headaches:

  • Avoid headache triggers: Different things trigger headaches in different people. Work out what brings on your headaches and keep a headache diary. When you feel one coming on, make a note of what you were doing or eating before you felt the pain. Once you know your triggers, it’s much easier to take steps to avoid them.
  • Rest and relax: People commonly identify stress as a headache trigger. Relaxation techniques such as meditation may help to reduce stress. Maintaining a good work-life balance and getting enough sleep can also help.
  • Exercise and eat regularly: Lack of exercise and skipping meals may also trigger headaches. A short walk during your lunch break or going to the gym can also help reduce the number of tension headaches you get.
  • Pain-relieving medication: Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen target the source of the pain and help provide relief from a tension headache. For fast pain relief, Nurofen Zavance is absorbed up to twice as fast as standard Nurofen.

Common triggers for tension headaches

For many people stress as a common cause of tension headaches. However, there are many other potential triggers including:

  • poor posture
  • tiredness
  • missing meals
  • lack of exercise
  • anxiety and depression

Should I be concerned about a tension headache?

Most tension headaches aren’t a sign of a more serious illness. However, you should see a doctor if:

  • Your headache is the result of a head injury
  • You develop problems with your vision such as blurriness
  • Headache symptoms become severe
  • Headache is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters please contact your doctor.

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References:

  • Headache Australia. Tension-type Headache - The Most Common Type of Headache. Available at http://headacheaustralia.org.au/headache-types/16-tension-type-headache-the-most-common-type-of-headache. Accessed 12 August 2014.
  • Steiner TJ et al. J Headache Pain 2007; 8: S3–47.
  • Mayo Clinic. Tension headache symptoms. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/basics/symptoms/con-20014295 Accessed 21 August 2014.
  • Bendtsen L, Jensen R. Neurol Clin 2009; 27: 525–35.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Tension headache. Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/tension-headache Accessed 21 August 2014.
  • Moore RA et al. Pain 2014; 155: 14–21.

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.