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Everyday Tension Headaches and Stress Headaches: Understanding, Causes, Duration, Muscle Involvement, and Relief

Tension headaches, also known as stress headaches, are a common type of headache experienced by many individuals regularly. These headaches can significantly impact one’s quality of life, causing discomfort and interfering with daily activities. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of tension headaches, exploring what they are, their causes, the duration of these headaches, the muscles involved, and effective strategies for relieving them.

What are Tension Headaches?

Tension headaches are a prevalent form of headache characterized by mild to moderate pain that often feels like a tight band around the head or pressure on both sides of the head. They are generally non-throbbing and are not typically accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea or sensitivity to light or sound, commonly associated with migraines.

Causes of Tension Headaches

The exact causes of tension headaches are not yet fully understood, but several factors are believed to contribute to their occurrence:

  1. Muscle Tension: One of the primary causes of tension headaches is muscle tension or tightness in the head, neck, and shoulder muscles. This tension can arise due to poor posture, stress, anxiety, or physical strain.
  2. Emotional and Mental Stress: Emotional and mental stress is a significant trigger for tension headaches. Psychological factors like anxiety, depression, work-related stress, or relationship problems can contribute to the development of these headaches.
  3. Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors, such as noise, bright lights, strong smells, or changes in weather conditions, may trigger tension headaches in susceptible individuals.
  4. Food sensitivities: Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, there are a few ways in which food sensitivities may trigger or exacerbate tension headaches:

             a. Inflammatory Response: Food sensitivities can lead to    

                 an inflammatory response in the body. When foods

                 are consumed that your gut is sensitive or intolerant 

                 to, it triggers an immune response, resulting in the

                 release of inflammatory substances. These 

                 substances can cause blood vessels in the head and

                 neck to become inflamed, leading to tension 

                 headaches.

            b. Chemical Triggers: Some foods contain natural 

                chemicals that can act as triggers for headaches in 

                susceptible individuals. For example, tyramine, which is found in aged cheeses, processed meats, and certain

wines, has been associated with headaches and migraines. Similarly, additives such as monosodium glutamate

(MSG) and artificial sweeteners have been reported to trigger headaches in some people.

Duration of Tension Headaches

The duration of tension headaches can vary from person to person. While some individuals may experience these headaches for a few hours, others may endure them for several days. However, tension headaches generally do not last as long as migraines, which can persist for 72 hours if left untreated.

Muscles Involved in Tension Headaches

Muscle tension headaches are closely associated with the contraction and tightness of specific muscles. The primary muscles involved in tension headaches are:

  1. Neck Muscles: The suboccipital muscles located at the base of the skull and the upper trapezius muscles in the neck region are commonly implicated in tension headaches.
  2. Scalp Muscles: The temporalis muscles on the sides of the head, the frontalis muscles in the forehead, and the occipitalis muscles at the back of the head may contribute to tension headaches.

How To Relieve Tension Headaches

Fortunately, there are several strategies to alleviate and prevent tension headaches. Here are some effective approaches:

  1. Stress Management: Since stress is a significant trigger for tension headaches, stress management techniques can be highly beneficial. These include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, regular exercise to improve posture, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and emotional well-being.
  2. Improved Ergonomics: Maintaining good posture, particularly while sitting and working for extended periods, can help reduce muscle tension and prevent tension headaches. Ergonomic adjustments, such as using an ergonomic chair, positioning the computer monitor at eye level as well as closer to you, and taking regular breaks, can also be helpful.
  3. Physical Therapy: Seeking assistance from a physical therapist can provide significant relief for individuals with chronic tension headaches. Physical therapy techniques, such as stretching exercises, massage, heat therapy, and postural training, can help relax muscles, relieve tension, and improve overall muscle function. If that hasn’t worked keep on reading.
  4. Modalities such as Softwave Therapy, a type of true shockwave device, can significantly reduce muscle tension and help relieve pain almost immediately. This electrohydraulic shockwave device works faster and more effectively than ultrasound or heat to reduce headache tension and relieve pain. Find out more about Softwave Therapy here.
  5. Over-the-Counter Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, can help alleviate mild to moderate tension headaches. These are hard on the stomach and kidneys so long-term use is not recommended. Steps 1-4 can significantly reduce recurring muscle tension, so OTC medication can be used infrequently.

Get rid of your everyday tension headaches at New You Health and Wellness. With our advanced technology and experienced therapists and functional medicine specialists you will receive a personalized program for you. Call 414 299 8121

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