Tension headache - what to do?

There are many different types of headaches. Neurologists break them down into tension-type headaches, cluster headaches, migraines, and drug-induced headaches. Of these four forms, tension headache is the most common. Read all about symptoms, causes and treatment of tension-type headaches here.

How does the tension headache express itself?

A typical symptom of tension-type headache are dull, aching headaches, which are usually localized on both sides but can not be pinpointed. "Like a band around the head" or "vise-like" are common descriptions of the complaints. In addition, the following characteristics can often be observed with tension headaches:

  • The intensity is mild to moderate.
  • The duration of the pain is very different and can last from a few hours to days.
  • Rarely does a dizziness come along.
  • In contrast to other forms of headache, there is no exacerbation of physical exertion and no pulsation.
  • Frequent is an involvement of the neck and neck muscles. The pain radiates from the neck to the back of the head and the entire head to the forehead.

Two forms of tension headache

The tension headache can be episodic, so occasionally, or chronic. A chronic tension-type headache is referred to when the symptoms predominate over at least half of the days of the month (15 days) or the year (180 days).

Causes of tension headache

The causes of tension headache are not scientifically clarified. The most common idea is based on muscular tension as the cause of tension headache. Treatments based on it show a good effect.

Constant tension on the neck and neck muscles activates pain receptors, triggering a headache. Due to the feeling of pain, the muscles tensed even more - a vicious circle arises.

The musculature can tense for different reasons. Obvious are physical malpractices or a weakness of the back muscles. For example, unfavorable body posture in the workplace can lead to permanent complaints.

Stress makes tension headaches

Some people also react in stress phases with a tension of the neck muscles. The proverbial weight "weighs on our shoulders".

In addition, some scientists assume a connection between tension-type headache and orthodontic problems, such as nocturnal teeth-grinding.

What helps against tension headaches?

Since the cause of tension-type headaches is often muscular pain, all measures to relax the muscles are beneficial:

  • Heat, for example, through a hot water bottle or a cherry stone bag, stimulates the circulation of the muscles and helps to transport metabolic products. The muscles can relax so again.
  • Essential oils, such as peppermint oil, have the same effect. They are applied evenly on the forehead, temples and neck.
  • There are also massages available.

Other home remedies for tension headache

In addition, there are so-called trigger points, which can bring after the teaching of acupressure relief: gently massage your temples in a circular motion, about two fingers away from the end of the eyebrows.

Even a hot bath, changing showers or sauna sessions help to relax the muscles and at the same time reduce stress.

There is currently no scientific evidence for homeopathic remedies. If you are interested, ask a doctor with knowledge in the field of homeopathy for advice on which preparation might be suitable for you.

Beware of painkillers

Only if these general measures do not help, a pain medication should be taken to relieve the tension headache. The drugs of first choice are acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen or paracetmaol. Some supplements are available over the counter at the pharmacy. If you have many previous illnesses or allergies, you should first talk to your family doctor about a suitable analgesic.

However, care should be taken with the frequency of ingestion: Especially with tension headaches, it is very important not to take the painkiller more than ten times a month. Otherwise, there is a risk of developing a drug-dependent headache that is very difficult to treat.

If you can not handle your tension headaches by yourself, consult your doctor. Prolonged complaints may lead to the risk of chronic tension-type headaches, the course of which is markedly worse due to the risk of pain memory formation and accompanying psychiatric complaints.

The chronic tension headache

Chronic tension-type headache is rare and develops from an episodic tension-type headache.

Risk factors for a chronic course are psychological side effects such as depression and anxiety disorders. Also familial chronic tension headache is reported as a risk factor.

If tension headache constantly returns, the brain develops long-term a so-called pain memory. Due to the frequent pain, the pain regulation is disturbed and even small stimuli are increasingly perceived as severe pain. Chronic tension-type headache in particular can permanently change the brain and should therefore be treated.

Special therapy for chronic tension headache

Chronic tension-type headache uses drugs that are also used to treat depression. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline or amitriptyline, are the drugs of first choice. They increase the serotonin level in the brain.

Serotonin is a hormone that plays an important role in controlling sleep, mood and pain. Therapy with tricyclic antidepressants must be carried out over a longer period of time to offer a chance of success.

In addition, a headache diary should be kept. In this way, triggering moments can be discovered in everyday life and counteracted in a targeted manner.

When should you see a doctor?

In principle, tension headaches can be treated well with home remedies and general measures. However, if this does not improve you should consult your doctor.

If the tension-type headache occurs very frequently and there is a suspicion of a chronic course, it is also advisable to consult a doctor.

Finally, there are still some signs that may indicate other underlying diseases in connection with tension headaches. Consult a physician for the following additional symptoms:

  • blurred vision
  • Reduction of the strength of the arms or legs
  • Feelings such as tingling sensations or deafness
  • additional fever
  • stiff neck
  • sudden onset of headache
  • very strong headache
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • one-sided headache
  • Redness and tears of the eyes
  • Headache after a fall

Preventive measures for tension headache

Especially for signs of chronic tension-type headache, preventive measures are recommended.

It is important to avoid stress. This includes scheduling regular breaks in everyday working life as well as sufficient sleep.

In order to become permanently symptom-free, one must eliminate the causes of the muscular tension. A critical appraisal of the workplace can already do wonders here. For example, pay attention to the height relation of the table and chair, ergonomic armrests and backrests, and the viewing angle of the screen.

Physical fitness is another important factor. Neurological societies recommend endurance sports such as cycling, swimming or jogging - preferably three times a week, 30 minutes a week.

Mental stress in tension headache

When you are in a stressful phase of your life, deliberate timeouts can help reduce stress and prevent tension headaches. Meditation, walks in the fresh air and relaxation exercises promise improvement.

In the case of serious psychological stress, even a psychological treatment may be necessary. Recognized procedures include progressive muscle relaxation or biofeedback, complemented by behavioral therapies.

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