Even though tension headaches are the most common type of headache, their cause is not generally known. It is estimated that 90% of all adults have experienced tension headaches, which are usually described as a dull band of pain that surrounds the head, above the eyes.
Also called “stress headaches, ” tension headaches start gradually and increase in intensity. They can be severe or mild, last for hours or days, and may be classified as episodic (occurring less than 15 days a month) or chronic headaches (occurring more than 15 days a month). Chronic headaches feel more like a “throbbing” in the head with more severe pain that is felt most of the time. Only 3% of the population suffers from chronic tension headaches.
Tension Headache Symptoms
Tension headache symptoms vary from person to person, but symptoms often include:
- Dull pain that is mild to moderate in most cases
- Feeling of “pressure” or “tightness” across the forehead or on the sides and back of the head
- Scalp tenderness
- Muscles aches
- Disturbed concentration/inability to focus
- Rarely, increased sensitivity to light or sound
- Occasionally, loss of appetite
Tension Headache Causes
The exact cause of tension headaches is not known, but it is believed that they may have something to do with muscle tension that is caused by stress or heightened emotions. Other researchers think that they result from fluctuations in the levels of certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, and that these fluctuations interfere with the brain’s ability to stop pain.
Certain “triggers” might also be responsible for tension headache pain. These include:
- Insufficient amount of sleep; fatigue
- Stress, resulting from situations related to work, family life, social interactions, finances and health issues
- Physical exertion
- Poor posture
Chronic tension headaches can result from situations that produce daily stress, such as a bad home situation, caring for an aging parent, financial difficulties, etc.
Tension Headache: Drug Treatment
Tension headache pain is usually treated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin) or other OTC headache relief remedies.
If tension headaches become more frequent or severe, a doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications or muscle relaxers for the pain. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications or anti-seizure medications might also be prescribed to prevent tension headaches from occurring at all.
However, many tension headache pain relief medications, both OTC and prescription, lose their effectiveness when taken over long periods of time. This may lead to a need for stronger pain medications that can be addictive or the overuse of OTC medications that can have serious gastrointestinal side effects and cause rebound headaches.
Non-Drug Treatment for Tension Headaches
Non-drug treatments for tension headaches focus primarily on behaviors you can use to reduce the pain and/or frequency of your headaches. Suggestions include:
- Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the head
- Taking a hot shower
- Developing consistent sleep habits
- Using relaxation techniques, including progressive relaxation where you begin focusing on relaxing your toes and work your way up your entire body until you finish with your head
- Quitting smoking
- Modifying diet to eliminate tension headache triggers (chocolate, alcohol, preservatives, aged cheeses, nitrates, etc.) and establish regular eating patterns and meal times
- Improving posture
- Learning biofeedback to reduce muscle tension (tightness) in the neck and head
- Obtaining psychological counseling to develop new ways to deal with stress
- Engaging in aerobic exercise, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, for at least 20-30 minutes, three times per week
Certain alternative therapies are also available to help you cope with the pain of tension headaches. These include:
- Massage therapy, to ease muscle soreness and tension and relieve headache pain
- Acupuncture, which may provide temporary relief from tension headache pain
- Chiropractic, which addresses the cause of muscle tension and tension headaches, with a proven success rate for millions of chronic headache sufferers
Tension Headaches and Chiropractic Care
“Chiropractors are highly trained and educated health care practitioners who use a “hands on” approach and/or specific instruments to locate and correct spinal misalignments that cause the nerve pressure that may be responsible for tension and other types of headaches,” observes a successful chiropractor in Hazlett.
Find recommended chiropractors in Clark, NJ.
When a vertebra (spinal bone) is misaligned or out of place, it presses on the nerves that exit the spine above and below it, causing nerve interference. When nerve interference is present, it disrupts the communication link between the brain and the affected body part, causing dis-ease and other conditions, including chronic headaches.
Usually with headaches, the misplaced bone is located in the upper cervical spine (top of the spine). Spinal misalignments typically occur with a traumatic head or neck injury, such as a fall, an accident or an injury that might have occurred without your even knowing it!
Our sponsors take the time necessary to look at your past health history and to help you try to remember if you had a sports-related injury or fell from a bed or even a tree. Maybe you were in a car accident as a young child or even as an adult. All of these types of events can cause a spinal bone to shift out of its proper position. They will also provide you with a thorough examination to determine whether chiropractic care can help to reduce or even eliminate your tension headache pain.
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Does Chiropractic Work?
Along with back and neck pain, headaches are one of the most common reasons for chiropractic visits. This is because chiropractic care has been so successful in addressing the cause of headaches and providing a means to obtain permanent headache relief.
Our sponsors are able to locate and correct spinal misalignments; this removes nerve interference, resulting in the elimination of the cause of your headaches. Your body is then able to heal on its own, without risky medications, and you’re pain free!
Clinical trials have shown that spinal adjustments may help in the treatment of tension headaches. One such study compared chiropractic adjustments to Elavil® in the treatment of tension headaches. The results? Study participants in both groups improved, but those who received spinal adjustments had fewer side effects and longer lasting benefits, even a month after treatment in the study ended, while the Elavil® study group did not.
Certainly we know that results can vary from person to person with any type of treatment. However that doesn’t change the fact that chiropractic care has quickly become the most widely used and accepted alternative healthcare approach, for all types of headaches and many other illnesses and conditions!
If you want to say “goodbye” to tension headaches and risky, ineffective drug treatments, chiropractic care offers a promising alternative that deals with the cause of your tension headaches. Give one of our sponsors a call today! Click here for a Choose Natural sponsor in your area.