LivingEverything you need to know about tension headaches

Everything you need to know about tension headaches

Does your head hurt as if a band were squeezing it from temple to temple? As if pain were a helmet that oppresses you ? Do you feel tingling on your scalp? Does your neck and even the area that includes the clavicle and scapula hurt? Are you having sleep problems and eye discomfort ? Well, we are sorry to say it, but these are the typical symptoms of tension headache , “the most frequent subtype within primary headaches, that is, of those types of headache in which pain constitutes the core of the clinical picture and not a symptom of another nosological entity ”, tells us Dr. Arias Gómez, neurologist and member of Top Doctors.

Also Top Doctors member and neurologist, Hari Bhatal Guede states that tension headache affects 70-80% of the population at some point in their life . “Almost everyone has experienced it, and it is related to episodes of fatigue, overload and emotional stress.” According to Dr. Arribas, this pathology can occur at any age, it occurs equally in men and women, it does not get worse with exercise , it is not accompanied by a phone or photobia (noise or light bothers you) and it allows you to work . In older ages it can be accompanied by dizziness. In addition, there is a genetic susceptibility to suffering from it .

Tension headache appears when there is an excessive and prolonged contraction of the pericranial muscles , which in the long run sensitize the peripheral and central pain pathways.

And what causes this contraction? ” Personal, professional and social stress, alterations and sleep deprivation, overwork , postures (staying for hours at the computer), a noisy and poorly lit work environment … In addition to emotional disorders such as syndromes anxious and depressive more or less larvae, without forgetting harassment and bullying ”, lists Arias Gómez.

The pain can last for days and even weeks . Arias advises going to the doctor if this lasts for more than a week or if even taking simple analgesics such as paracetamol, nolotil and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), no improvement is observed. And, of course, if we feel that pain is interfering in our life.

Tension headache usually recurs but not in all cases it ends up becoming chronic.

The pain caused by tension headaches can be fought from different fronts. The first is through drugs . “In addition to the previously mentioned analgesics, we usually prescribe tricyclic antidepressants at low doses (amitriptyline or nortriptyline at night) and in other situations, in which they are contraindicated, we use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (sertraline, fluvoxamine, paroxetine ); the above drugs can be combined with anxiolytics (benzodiazepines) and sometimes with muscle relaxants such as tizanidine ”, Dr. Arias tells us.

EMG-biofeedback techniques have proven their effectiveness in cases of tension headache. They consist of placing electrodes on the patient’s muscles so that they report the degree of contraction and relax them.

Other methods that relieve pain are: manual physiotherapy and dry needling in case there are myofascial trigger points in the neck and shoulder girdle (between clavicle and scapula). A myosfacial trigger point is a nodule that can be felt on the skin and is located in a tight band of muscle. It causes intense pain at the same point but can also cause pain in a distant area (referred pain).

“In addition, adequate rest, relaxation techniques, physical exercise and sleep hygiene are measures to be implemented in many cases,” says Arias.

Asked if the tension headache could affect the brain, Dr. Arribas lists as possible side effects a decrease in attentional, cognitive, artistic and even sexual performance . It can also be accompanied by symptoms of fibromyalgia, with widespread pain.

The neurologist points out as a possible danger being able to develop dependence on painkillers, especially if they are opiates.

At this point we are left to know if something can be done to prevent tension headaches. Arribas recommends living in a suitable family, work and study environment as well as recognizing and treating affective disorders such as anxiety and depression , which can trigger it. Of course, it is recommended to visit the neurologist if you have the aforementioned symptoms so that an adequate study, diagnosis and early treatment can be made.

Other gestures that can help prevent are:

Change the pillow or posture when sleeping.

– Make sure you have a good posture when reading, working or doing other activities .

Stretch and exercise your back, neck and shoulders frequently while writing, working in front of the computer and in similar activities.

Exercise more vigorously whenever possible and with the consent of the doctor.

Check your eyesight and if you need glasses, wear them!

Learn to manage stressful situations . Relaxation exercises and meditation can be beneficial.

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