Headaches - tension type

Tension-type headache is very common; nearly everyone will have suffered from this kind of headache at some point in their lives. Some people however, suffer frequent headaches which are severe and cause significant disruption to their lives. Effective management is very important in this scenario. The cause of these headaches is not always clear but can arise from emotional stress leading to increased muscular tension, also from postural problems, particularly in the area of the neck and shoulders. Hence the need for sitting correctly at the computer which so many of us do all day long these days! The headache is usually described as a band, or as a feeling of tightness. It can be felt all around the head, or be focused on the front, above the eyes, or at the back of the head. The pain is constant and lasts all day, typically getting worse as the day goes on. Unlike migraine it is usually felt on both sides of the head. Some people feel nauseated and notice a dislike of sound and light, but nowhere near as severely as in a migraine. Most people can carry on their activities, whereas the migraine sufferer usually has to retreat to a darkened room. If the headaches are not frequent, it is safe to treat them with painkilling drugs. If they are occurring regularly and painkilling drugs (particularly codeine) are taken on more than 3 days per week, then it is possible to aggravate the headaches and create a vicious circle causing a ‘medication overuse headache’. If this is the case, then the individual needs to withdraw the painkillers and a substitute such as amitriptyline should be offered to try to prevent the headaches occurring. Other measures such as relaxation techniques, head massage, osteopathy, changing lifestyle are all likely to be useful.

Further information

This article published on
04 December 2005

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