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Tension headaches cause a disruption to everyday activities.

Tension Type Headaches (TTH) are experienced by up to 7 million Australians, with approximately 36% of men and 42% women suffering on a day-to-day basis!

Tension headaches are usually caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck areas resulting in mild to severe head pain.

Symptoms of TTH

TTH are normally felt on both sides of the head, with the intensity of the pain being less than some other headaches. Sufferers often remark that it is the persistence of the headache rather than the intensity that causes interference with daily activities. Sensations of heaviness or pressure, tightness in neck and shoulder muscles, sensitivity to light and sound and restriction of neck movements are all commonly described symptoms of tension headaches. The headaches can present recurrently or episodically, which may be associated with a specific stressful event or activity. Other common symptoms include indigestion, trouble concentrating, difficulty with sleep and anxiety or depression.

When tension type headaches are experienced for more than 15 days per month, it is considered a chronic condition.

Triggers of TTH

Any activity that requires excessive muscle contraction in the head and neck region, may result in a tension headache. This may include activities such as frowning, jaw clenching or neck straining. Prolonged positions, particularly at home or at work are likely to contribute to TTH. Change in the weather, such as extreme heat or cold, as well as bright lights and loud noises or busy environments may also be a trigger.

Other triggers may include:

  • Medication
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Alcohol
  • Activities which strain the eyes
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Sinus infection

Avoiding and addressing the triggers to TTH can immediately act towards reducing the number of days sufferers spend in pain.

Treatment of TTH

Treatment and prevention will vary on a case to case basis depending on exact symptoms and triggers.

Simple ways to immediately stop the occurrence of these headaches is to take some time off work/study in order to remove stressful aspects and give your body a break from the suffering. You may need to re-evaluate the methods you take in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle, this might include trying to get more or less sleep, incorporating regular exercise, or even incorporating regular social activities to break up your work and social life.

 Physiotherapy treatment can be successful in addressing tight muscles in the neck, shoulders and back by providing massage and stretches, or prescribing exercises for strengthening weak muscles that may be contributing. It will also help with posture correction and work and home modifications in order to prevent triggering headaches due to poor posture. Finally, mobilisation at the joints in the cervical spine can help to desensitise the brainstem to prevent tension type headaches occurring at all.

Give us a call on 1800 43 23 22 43 if you are a sufferer or know someone who suffers from tension type headaches, to book an appointment with one of our headache clinicians for a careful assessment and early diagnosis of your condition!

References

Alexander, L. 2018. Tension-type Headache. Retrieved from https://headacheaustralia.org.au/headachetypes/tension-type-headache/

Miller, J. 2019. Tension Headache. Retrieved from https://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/tension_headache.

 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 2018. Headaches: In Depth. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/headachefacts.htm