Don’t Let a Tension Headache get in the Way of Your Life
Almost all of us have experienced a tension headache at one time or another. Some describe them as a tight band around the forehead, and others think of a vice around their entire head. The pain can range from harmless to severe and they can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.
There are two classifications of tension headaches that doctors refer to. The first is called episodic, and these consist of headaches that only last a few minutes to a few hours, and occur fifteen or fewer times each month. The other type is chronic, and these headaches occur fifteen or more days a month and happen much more frequently in women than men. Sometimes, the pain of chronic tension headaches can be nearly constant in nature.
Tension headaches are almost ubiquitous: at some point in our lives, we all experience that aching, tightening, or pressing sensation in heads. Despite their prevalence, there has been little research on complementary and alternatives treatment for chronic tension-type headaches. Recent research suggests that patients with chronic tension-type headaches could benefit from a combination of chiropractic adjustments and a medication called amitriptyline.
Tension Headache Symptoms
Of course, the most evident sign of a tension headache is the pain, but there are other types of symptoms that you can experience as well. Your scalp, neck, and shoulders may become tender to the touch. You may suffer from fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. It may be difficult to concentrate on daily tasks, and you might even experience a loss of appetite. Some people will also have neck or jaw discomfort.
This type of a headache is not loosely associated with vision disturbances, however. If you see an aura or experience blind spots in your line of vision with your headache, you may instead be having a migraine. These headaches can cause other symptoms as well, and often need your doctor’s assistance to overcome. On the other hand, tension headaches do not always require medical attention, since they can often be treated quite effectively at home.
In a 2009 study, 19 adults with chronic tension headaches used a journal to establish how often they typically experienced headaches. They were then randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups:
- received amitriptyline and chiropractic.
- received a placebo amitriptyline and chiropractic.
- amitriptyline and a sham chiropractic treatment and
- placebo amitriptyline and a sham chiropractic.
Patients in both the chiropractic and amitriptyline groups experienced fewer headaches but neither treatment proved to be both clinically and statistically significant on its own. The most noticeable changes occurred in the combined treatment group which did see clinically and statistically significant results. Overall, patients in the combined treatment group had nine more headache-free days compared to when they started the intervention. This lead researchers to suggests that a “combined treatment might present an optimal approach to the management of [chronic tension-type headaches].” The researchers hypothesized that the combined treatment could address both the primary and secondary mechanisms behind tension headaches.
Given the fact that the trial ended early due to the small sample size, the researchers hesitated to draw any firm conclusions. Instead, they suggested that larger studies be conducted to confirm these initial findings. Still, the findings point to promising results for sufferers of chronic tension headaches.
Tension Headache Treatments
The best treatment for a tension headache is often an over the counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. The best type of medication will depend on your own personal needs and preferences, so keep trying the different brands and formulas until you find the one that works the best for your headaches.
Many people find that the best relief comes from a combination of medications. For example, Excedrin has a formula that includes aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine for maximum benefit. Keep in mind that any over the counter medication can have dangerous side effects if it is overused, so limit your doses to two times each week to avoid problems. If you find yourself treating your tension headaches more often, it may be time to see your doctor for safer, more effective options for you.
What To Do For Tension Headaches, Last Updated: 6/1/2018