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What is a Tension Headache?

Posted Feb 15 2011 12:00am

San Francisco Chiropractor Comments:

Headache doctor in San Francisco This week is Headache Awareness Week at Executive Express Chiropractic . Our objective is to help educate the community, as well as our patient base, on the various types of headaches and the drug-less treatment options that are available for them.

Tension Headaches are considered the most common type of headache. Here is an excerpt of what the Mayo Clinic has to say about them:


By Mayo Clinic staff

A tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain that's often described as feeling like a tight band around your head. A tension headache — or tension-type headache as it's medically known — is the most common type of headache, and yet its causes aren't well understood.

It may feel as if muscle contractions are responsible for your head pain, which is why this type of headache is generally referred to as a tension-type headache, though experts no longer think muscle contractions are the cause.

Fortunately, effective treatments for tension headaches are available. Managing a tension headache is often a balance between fostering healthy habits, finding effective non-drug treatments and using medications appropriately.

Signs and symptoms of a tension headache include:

  • Dull, aching head pain
  • The sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head
  • Tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Occasionally, loss of appetite

A tension headache can last from 30 minutes to an entire week. You may experience these headaches only occasionally, or nearly all the time. If your headaches occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months, they're considered chronic. If you have headaches that occur fewer than 15 times in a month, your headaches are considered episodic. However, people with frequent episodic headaches are at a higher risk of developing chronic headaches.

The headache is usually described as mild to moderately intense. The severity of the pain varies from one person to another, and from one headache to another in the same person.

Tension headaches can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from migraines, but unlike some forms of migraine, tension headache usually isn't associated with visual disturbances (blind spots or flashing lights), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or slurred speech. And, while physical activity typically aggravates migraine pain, it doesn't make tension headache pain worse. An increased sensitivity to light or sound can occur with a tension headache, but these aren't common symptoms.

When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor
If tension headache disrupts your life or you find that you need to take medication for your headaches more than twice a week, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Click here for full Mayo Clinic article on tension headaches .

My Take: As a former migraine headache sufferer (this is how I was introduced to chiropractic), I know first hand how headaches can interfere with your life. I also know from my experience as a migraine headaches patient and from my 20 years experience treating them, that it's often hard to name a headache (tension, migraine, cluster, temporal, etc.) because the symptoms overlap.

I also learned from my experience with migraine headaches, that in general (and it has gotten better)...most doctors tend to look for a chemical cause vs. physical...which is why they treat the headache with a chemical (drug).

If the problem is physical, such as a pinched nerve in the neck, a bone out of alignment, cervical muscle spasms from abnormal posture pulling on the head...or even a short leg causing muscular imbalances throughout the body...what good is the chemical going to do other than mask the real problem? And the drugs can cause a whole new set of health concerns (side effects).  

Hey, sometimes the cause of headaches is chemical (or hormonal)...but way more often it's physical (in my opinion)...which is what people need to know. There are physical causes of headaches which can be addressed without medications. And chiropractic can help.

If you are looking for a headache doctor in San Francisco , please call Executive Express Chiropractic at 415-392-2225 and ask for a complimentary headache assessment.We are here to help.

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