What are the most common causes of a tension headache?


Experts have not pinpointed one leading cause of tension headache because it is believed that there is more than one cause of tension headache. The exact cause of tension headache is yet unknown.

What are the most common causes of a tension headache?

The most common causes of tension headache perceived in most people are the tightening of the muscles in the neck or the region at the back of the head. This is one of the more popular theories that is said to cause tension headaches. Here, the head, neck, or shoulder muscle contracts causing the muscle to tighten. 

The patient may have more sensitive muscles in the face and neck region, causing them to be more prone to experiencing tension headaches when their muscles contract. The affected area is believed to further result in blood vessels constricting, causing a reduced blood flow and oxygen. Hence pain is experienced. 

People who have a habit of repeatedly clenching and unclenching their jaws cause their neck muscles to tighten. This habit is another one of the causes of tension headache, leading to neck tension headache.

Bad posture is another cause of tension headaches.

Having a bad posture has also been identified as one of the causes of tension headaches. An uncomfortable working position is stressful, and holding this for a long time will eventually cause tension headaches to develop. This being said, even sleeping with the head in an awkward position can cause tension headaches.

Another theory in the study on causes of tension headache is related to the chemicals in the brain. One suspected chemical is serotonin. Muscles emit signals to the brain, but a suspected faulty pain filter wrongly interprets this as pain, and hence patients experience the pain as tension headaches.

However, one conflicting factor is said to may or may not cause tension headache, and that is the issue of hereditary. Reports have claimed that tension headaches are not hereditary and that patients do not inherit them from family members. 

Other sources say that genetic makeup has been found to play a part in determining if a person is more susceptible to tension headaches. And this susceptibility is equal in both males and females. 

But studies have shown that females are more likely than males to experience tension headaches, so other factors like stress, hormones, and the environment affect the development of tension headaches.

This leads us to conclude that stress may also be one of the causes of tension headaches. Stress that slowly builds up as the days go by, or even daily stress, causes a tension headache. Generally, after a long stressful day at work, one is more likely to develop a tension headache. 

Other sources of stress apart from work are school, family, and friends. A person who is easily depressed or always anxious is more susceptible to developing tension stress than a generally happy person.

Other suspected causes of tension headaches are lack of sleep and straining the eyes, such as when looking at materials too long and taking meals at irregular times. Even stopping caffeine intake has been reported to be one of the related reasons that cause tension headaches.

Many forms of treatment are known as tension headache relief. Taking pill or tablet medications is one of them. 

Analgesics such as ibuprofen are widely used to ease episodic tension headaches. They are easily accessible, over-the-counter medications at pharmacies. Otherwise, there is always the convenient and universal option of paracetamol. The likes of amitriptyline and mirtazapine are more commonly used for chronic tension headache relief.

Sometimes, patients take a daily dosage of tension headache medication to help control tension headaches or barometric pressure headaches. An anti-depressant known as tricyclic has been prescribed as a tension headache relief aid. 

Do you require medication for your tension headache?

It is also known that some people do not require medication to combat their tension headaches. Instead, they use a heating pad as their tension headache relief, while others have found that using an ice compress is equally effective. Other methods of tension headache relief are to gently knead and massage the tightened muscles around the scalp, neck, or shoulder region.

Learning to relax and avoiding stress-filled situations are ways to prevent tension headaches from developing. When a situation gets too stressed, taking deep breaths and counting to ten may help one de-stress. Also, taking a break from repetitive work to perform some stretching exercises may help loosen muscles otherwise in tension. 

Acupuncture is also known to be a good tension headache relief in that it may help reduce the frequency of headache occurrence. 

Another drug-free tension headache relief is an exercise that will assist in loosening tightened muscles at the neck. Muscles from the neck connect to the skull at a junction known as the occipital ridge. 

The trick is to create a pressure point at this junction near the skull base. Ample pressure at the “right spot” will be able to relieve and loosen up tensed muscles. You may need a third party to assist you in performing this exercise.

One other method of tension headache relief often used by tension headache patients is manual therapy. 

An example of manual therapy is spinal manipulation. Some claim it’s effective, but there were also reports of new pain after the therapy. This type of tension headache relief has even been reported to result in complications resulting in death. 

Due to the seriousness of certain treatments being administered for tension headache relief, it is highly recommended that sufferers consult professionals to be helped with a suitable treatment for the individual. 

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Know your body well, know what triggers your tension headaches and the causes, and take steps to reduce their occurrences. And that would be the best tension headache relief plan. 

Reduce both physical and emotional stress, which will ultimately reduce muscle tension. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by keeping to a regular regime, eating, and exercising regularly.

However, if tension headache symptoms are found, it is always advisable to seek treatment to get rid of your headache and neck pain as soon as possible.

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