Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches. It’s described by most as aching pain that is felt in both sides of the head. These headaches can last as little as 30 minutes or linger on for days. The biggest trigger for a tension headache is stress — which makes sense why they’re so common today (affecting more than 40% of the population).
The intensity of this pain can be mild to moderate and is described as wearing a tight band around the head, but the pain can involve temples, back of the eyes/head, and shoulder muscles. Tension headaches are also mostly mistaken for migraines and sinus headaches, but you can distinguish them with the help of symptoms discussed in this post.
The good news is — tension headaches can improve by bringing a few natural changes to your lifestyle and utilizing some of the treatment options we’re outlining in this post.
So, what causes a tension headache?
Tension-type headache occurs when the neck and scalp muscles are contracted. These muscle contractions can be caused by stress, which is the most prominent reason, and it doesn't have any permanent effect on other factors such as eyesight or pressure behind the eyes.
However, modern research is suggesting that muscular contractions are not really the cause of tension headaches. This type of headache seems to be more triggered in people who have increased pain sensitivity.
Some other very ordinary acts such as clenching the jaw, missing meals, anxiety, disturbed sleep schedule, etc., can trigger headaches considerably. Sleep apnea can also be one of the causes of tension headaches. In this condition, the headache most likely starts in the morning.
Symptoms of a tension headache
There are two types of tension headaches:
Episodic or periodic
In episodic headache, the pain can last for 30 minutes or even a week. In chronic tension headaches, the pain can last for up to 15 days a month. If you aren't sure about your pain, check for the following symptoms to know if your headache is tension-related or not:
Monotonous pain in the head
Pressure around the skull like when wearing a tight band.
Stress on the neck, shoulders, and head
The intensity of pain more significant in the scalp, temples, and back of the neck
Your treatment options and ways to prevent tension headache
Because of their strong link to stress, take these steps to prevent or minimize the severity of tension headache
Drink water: Dehydration can increase headache severity, so it’s important to get an adequate amount of water each day.
Exercise: Physical activity produces brain chemicals (endorphins) that are natural painkillers. Exercise also leads to improved sleep which can reduce stress.
Good sleep hygiene: Improve your sleep by minimizing daytime naps, avoiding caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime, getting exercise, and avoiding electronic devices before bed.
Massage: Deep-tissue work massage helps relieve built-up muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and scalp. That’s where we can help. We treat pain at its source with our hands-on manual therapy. Book an appointment today or give us a call to ask any questions you have about what we can do for you.
Adjusting your posture: Adjusting your posture can help elevate tension from your neck muscles and shoulder muscles. The next time you are planning to sit for too long, try to maintain a good posture or look into getting a standing desk.
Finally, tame your tension headaches
Managing your levels of stress is one of the best treatment options for tension headaches. It can help reduce its reoccurring frequency and duration of the pain. But oftentimes, that’s the hard part. Massage therapy is a great way to relieve built-up muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and scalp. At Moench Method Bodywork, our massage therapists focus on treating your pain at its source. You can learn more about our method here.
We’ve treated thousands of people with our massage therapy treatments all across the Greater Austin area in cities like West Lake Hills, Bee Cave, Lakeway, Lake Travis, and more!