Chronic tension headache

Patients suffering from chronic tension-type headache have a significantly reduced quality of life due to their constant pain. Above all, there is a risk of drug-related headache as well as anxiety disorders and depression if the condition is not treated. Experts from the German Migraine and Headache Society recommend that patients with chronic tension-type headaches receive a comprehensive therapy with various strategies, as offered in interdisciplinary treatment centers.

Chronic tension headache

In Germany, around three percent of the adult population, or more than two million people, have chronic tension-type headaches, meaning that they suffer daily or almost daily dull-headed or drawing headaches. If sufferers then combat pain with analgesics, there is a risk of drug-induced headache. Because analgesics can cause headaches if taken too often.

In addition, the quality of life of patients is severely limited, as studies by American researchers show. Depression and anxiety can be the result. Although patients with chronic tension-type headaches strive to maintain their social and professional functions with great effort, they are tired, sleep poorly, and feel depressed. In half of the total of 245 patients, the US researchers therefore diagnosed a depression requiring treatment.

Similar observations are made by German experts: "More than 80 percent of all patients with tension headaches do not go to the doctor, " notes Günther Fritsche, a psychologist at the headache outpatient department of the Neurological University Hospital in Essen. "If, at first, only occasional tension-type headaches become chronic because they are left untreated, those at risk of developing, in addition to their headaches, another anxiety or depression disorder of psychiatric severity."


The treatment of tension-type headaches focuses on non-drug treatment methods:

  • The progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson,
  • Stress management training,
  • light exercise, biofeedback and
  • psychological-behavioral-medical strategies

help the patient "immunize" against the internal and external stress factors. The psycho-behavioral methods also relieve depression and anxiety.

In addition, preventative drug therapy may be helpful. These are medications that are commonly used to treat depression. Because they also influence the processing of pain stimuli in the brain. Such comprehensive therapies are offered in interdisciplinary headache centers and specialist practices. "Those affected learn that they can develop ways and strategies to deal with their pain, find a way out of their social isolation, meet their friends and visit a cinema or a concert, " says Fritsche, summing up the treatment results. The set of measures of relaxation, exercise and behavioral therapy leads to the fact that the patient's lowered pain threshold is raised. This is how to break the vicious circle of pain.

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