What is a Tension-Type Headache?
A tension headache or tension-type headache is thought to be the most common type of headache. Usually people describe tension headaches as a tight and constricting band around their head. Pain generally increases as the day progresses with the pain at its worst in the late afternoon and early evening. Generally, the discomfort is reported as a dull and aching feeling across the forehead, at the temples, or at the base of the neck. Tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to a week. Some people experience these headaches rarely to occasionally while others report frequent episodes. A tension headache is different from migraine in that tension headaches are not usually associated with neurologic disturbances (changes in vision, weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sensitivity to light, sound and smell), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Although muscle tension and trigger points play a role in tension headaches, researchers now believe that abnormal changes in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) may be contributing to the cause. These headaches may be triggered by stress, anxiety, posture, clenching of the jaw, straining of the eyes and fatigue.
How is Tension-Type Headache Diagnosed?
Because there are no specific anatomical or biochemical abnormalities associated with tension-type headache, studies such as blood work, X-ray, MRI, or CT are not helpful in the diagnosis. Generally, tension headaches are diagnosed based on history and examination. In addition to the common tests your primary care doctors would perform, the chiropractors at LVC will palpate (use their hands) to assess the muscles of the head and neck enabling them to find muscle tightness or weakness which may be contributing to your pain.
What are the Options for Treating Tension-Type Headache?
Research indicates that a hands-on approach may be the right strategy when it comes to tension-type headaches. Release of tight muscles with manual therapy, postural changes and therapeutic exercise combined with spinal manipulation may be the right approach for you. Managing stress is another important component to managing tension-type headaches. The chiropractors at LVC will provide you with muscle relaxation exercises and other stress management tools which will enable you feel more in control of your stress-levels and your headaches. Chiropractic is a safe and effective approach that may provide you with relief.
- Advances in the pathophysiology of tension-type headache: from stress to central sensitization. Chen Y. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2009 Dec;13(6):484-94.
- Short-term effects of manual therapy on heart rate variability, mood state, and pressure pain sensitivity in patients with chronic tension-type headache: a pilot study. Toro-Velasco C, Arroyo-Morales M, Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Cleland JA, Barrero-Hernández FJ. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 Sep;32(7):527-35.
- Efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic headache: a systematic review. Bronfort G, Assendelft WJ, Evans R, Haas M, Bouter L.J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2001 Sep;24(7):457-66.Mueller LL. Diagnosing and managing migraine headache. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2007 Nov;107(10 Suppl 6):ES10-6.
- Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension-type headaches: a randomized clinical trial. Boline PD, Kassak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):148-54.
Tags: headache bethlehem