Tension-Type Headache

Symptoms and Treatment for Tension-Type Headache

Tension headache is the most common type of headache. Estimates are that up to 78% of the general population has experienced tension-type headache. Chronic tension headache causes disability to the point where quality of life is decreased. Episodic tension-type headaches are either infrequent (headache episodes fewer than once a month) or frequent. The frequent type of episodic tension headache can cause problems serious enough to warrant acute and/or preventive prescription medications. If your tension-type headaches are interfering with your daily life, schedule a visit to the Diamond Headache Clinic for a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Tension-Type Headache?

Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Dull pressure or band-like pain felt on both sides of the head
  • Pain that is not pulsating
  • Mild to moderate intensity
  • Ability to carry on daily activities without worsening pain
  • Absence of nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of heightened sensitivity to light or sound
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Chronic headaches occurring more than 15 days per month for more than 3 months

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How Is Tension-Type Headache Diagnosed?

The experienced doctors at the Diamond Headache Clinic diagnose this condition through a combination of physical exam, medical history and questions about the patient’s lifestyle. The patient’s description of the frequency, duration and severity of headache is a vital component in diagnosing tension headache. In addition, your doctor will rule out other causes of headache, like brain tumors and medication overuse. Tension-type headache is often accompanied by neck or jaw pain, stress, anxiety and/or depression, and these other conditions require treatment as well.

What Is the Recommended Tension-Type Headache Treatment?

Non-drug therapies can provide effective treatment for tension-type headache. Neck pain and tightness can be relieved by heat, massage and physical therapy techniques such as neck exercises. Reducing stress helps to control tension headache pain, and non-drug therapies such as relaxation training, biofeedback and counseling also work well. A patient whose condition does not respond to non-pharmacological treatment options may benefit from acute and preventive medications.

Drug therapies begin with over-the-counter pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDSs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) and acetaminophen. For the frequent or severe pain of chronic tension-type headache, treatment may include some of the same acute and preventive medications prescribed for migraine headache. Preventive medications for tension-type headache include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. A patient who suffers from nighttime jaw clenching that causes jaw joint and muscle pain can be helped by specific medications to treat this disorder.

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