What is a tension headache?

“A tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain in your head that’s often described as feeling like a tight band around your head. A tension headache (tension-type headache) is the most common type of headache, and yet its causes aren’t well-understood” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Tension headaches are also known as cervicogenic headache.

What causes a tension headache?

While there is no known cause for tension headaches, there are triggers for tension headaches. “Experts used to think tension headaches stemmed from muscle contractions in the face, neck and scalp, perhaps as a result of heightened emotions, tension or stress. But research suggests muscle contraction isn’t the cause. The most common theory supports a heightened sensitivity to pain in people who have tension headaches. Increased muscle tenderness, a common symptom of tension headaches, may result from a sensitized pain system. Stress is the most commonly reported trigger for tension headaches” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). We often hear patients come into the clinic stating that they are carrying a lot of stress in their shoulder. Improper ergonomics & posture are also linked to increased tension headaches. Prolonged sitting behind a computer desk for long hours or working from home without proper ergonomic workstation.


Areas of pain


What are the symptoms of a tension headache?

The symptoms are that of a typical headache. A patient with a tension headache will experience a dull ache in their head and tightness or pressure in the affected area. Mayo Clinic (2019) states that there are two types of tension headaches: episodic and chronic. “Episodic anatomy of the headtension headaches can last from 30 minutes to a week. Frequent episodic tension headaches occur less than 15 days a month for at least three months. Frequent episodic tension headaches may become chronic. Chronic tension headaches last hours and may be continuous. If your headaches occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months, they’re considered chronic” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Some patients may find it difficult to understand the difference between a tension headache and a migraine, as both can be quite painful and disruptive to one’s daily life. “Unlike some forms of migraine, tension headaches usually aren’t associated with visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting. Although physical activity typically aggravates migraine pain, it doesn’t make tension headache pain worse. An increased sensitivity to either light or sound can occur with a tension headache, but these aren’t common symptoms” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Tightness is neck & shoulder musculature are also a common symptoms.

How does one treat a tension headache?

Regular chiropractic adjustments can help prevent tension headaches from occurring by removing the nerve interference in the cervical region. These adjustments may be paired with over the counter medications such as Advil or Tylenol, which reduce pain and inflammation. Hot and cold compresses on the forehead or back of the neck are also beneficial in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Managing one’s stress is helpful in preventing tension headaches. Getting massage therapy or deep trigger point therapy done on the surrounding neck & shoulder musculature. Stretching the neck muscles or doing physical therapy also help reduce frequency of tension headaches. Lastly, investing in proper ergonomic equipment to improve posture or wearing a posture correcting brace can help as well.

Work Cited

Tension headache. (2019, June 11). Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20353977

Tension Headache. (2018, December). Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/tension-headache-a-to-z


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *