Tension Headache Relief

A man with a tension headacheAfter a long day of work and errands, you are ready to go to sleep but the throbbing headache is keeping you from the bedroom. You might take some aspirin but it still does not ease the pain. A tension headache might be the diagnosis.

What is a tension headache?

Most headaches are tension headaches. These headaches tend to happen again and again, especially if you are under stress. They are not usually a sign of something serious. But they can be very painful and hard to live with.

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What causes tension headaches?

Doctors don’t know for sure what causes tension headaches. Experts once thought that tension or spasms in the muscles of your neck, face, and head played a role. Now they think a change in brain chemicals may also be a cause.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of tension headaches include:

• A headache that is constant, not throbbing. You usually feel the pain or pressure on both sides of your head.
• Pressure that makes you feel like your head is in a vise.
• Aching pain at your temples or the back of your head and neck.
• This is different than migraine headaches, which usually cause throbbing pain and start on one side of your head.
• Tension headaches tend to come back, especially when you are under stress. They can last from 30 minutes to several days.

Usually, pain from a tension headache is not severe and does not get in the way of your work or social life. But for some people the pain is very bad or lasts a long time. You have chronic tension headaches if they occur at least 15 days a month.

How are tension headaches diagnosed?

A doctor can usually diagnose tension headaches by asking you questions about your health and lifestyle and by examining you.

Read More: 5 Surprising Headache Triggers

How are they treated?

Most people can treat their tension headaches with pain relievers that you buy without a prescription, like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or aspirin.

But if you take these pain relievers more than 3 times a week, you may get rebound headaches. Rebound headaches are different from tension headaches. They usually start after pain medicine has worn off, which leads you to take another dose. Eventually you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.

Some people have chronic tension headaches. This means they often get headaches. Doctors may prescribe stronger pain medicine for these people.

Can tension headaches be prevented?

Even with treatment, most people still have some headaches. But with treatment, you will probably have them less often. And when you do get them, they probably won’t be as bad.

Home treatment may help you avoid headaches. Learn how to handle stress. Make sure you sleep, exercise, and eat on a regular schedule. Check your posture. Don’t strain your eyes when you use your computer. Get treatment for depression or anxiety.

Try keeping a headache diary. Every time you get a headache, write down the date, the hour, and what you were doing and feeling before your headache started. This may help you and your doctor find out what is causing your headaches so you can get the right treatment.

Warmer Temps Bring Migraines

woman sitting outside(BlackDoctor.org) — As Spring settles in the sky with rain clouds and sunshine everywhere, temperatures are getting warmer everyday but those warm temperatures also increase migraines caused by this weatherly change.

New research suggests that certain weather conditions may trigger migraines and other severe headaches. But frequent sufferers may be surprised by some of the findings.

The study reveals that:

  • Regardless of the time of year, an increase in temperature was the biggest weather-related headache trigger. Researchers reported that every 9 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature raised the headache risk by 7.5%.
  • Low barometric air pressure is considered by some to be specific to migraines, but the study found no link between migraines and low-pressure systems. The researchers say lower pressure was associated with a small increase in risk for non-migraine headaches.
  • Air pollution was not strongly associated with an increased risk for migraine or non-migraine headaches. But the automobile exhaust pollutant nitrogen dioxide did show a borderline effect on non-migraine headaches.

Weather, Pollution, and Migraines

The study is one of the largest ever to examine the impact of weather and air pollution on headaches.

But study lead author Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health, states that an even bigger study would be needed to understand the impact of air pollution on headaches.

“We are not saying that air pollution is not a headache trigger,” he says. “What we can say with some confidence is that the effect is not enormous.”

Mukamal and colleagues compared the medical records of 7,054 headache patients treated at a Boston hospital’s emergency department over a seven-year period to official records of pollution levels and weather conditions in the days before treatment.

Specific weather conditions including temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity were also examined at other key time periods.

Although rising temperature was identified as the biggest weather-related headache trigger, the researchers concluded that the impact may not be clinically meaningful.

“This magnitude of excess risk is obviously modest and may not be an important factor in the clinical management of individual patients, given the many other potential triggers of migraine that patients face,” they write.

The study was published in the journal Neurology and was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other Headache Triggers

Migraine specialist Stephen Silberstein, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology, tells WebMD that patients often can reduce the number and severity of the headaches they have by understanding their own triggers.

Common migraine triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes. For many women, migraines are closely linked to their menstrual cycle, with headaches occurring immediately before or during their periods.
  • Diet and eating habits. Fasting or skipping meals and dehydration are two big migraine triggers, Silberstein says.
  • Overuse of pain drugs for headaches. This can lead to rebound headaches.
  • Intense exertion. Strenuous exercise and even sex can bring on migraines.
  • Changes in sleep habits and stress. Getting too much or too little sleep can trigger headaches. And stress is a big trigger for many people.

Many migraine sufferers believe that particular foods trigger their headaches. Silberstein says it is clear that alcohol, the flavor enhancer MSG, and caffeine withdrawal can do this.

But he adds that there is little scientific evidence linking other commonly cited foods like chocolate and artificial sweeteners to headaches.

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