Headaches are very common in society and it is not unusual for people to complain of headaches from time to time, however these headaches occur more often than not and can really interfere with someone’s way of life. A chronic condition is one that lasts for a long time and this is the case with these headaches. A tension headache is not in itself that much of a big deal and can usually be overcome with some simple pain relief, however the problem here is that they occur almost everyday.
What is it?
Tension headaches can occur when one is feeling stressed, angry or tired and in fact some think that the above situations create a tension in the back of your neck or in your head. However this is not widely accepted and some doctors do not think that it is due to muscles at all. People who have chronic tension headaches have usually had them for a long time and they occur a lot. If you get headaches more than 15 out of the 30 days in a month and this goes on for more than 3 months you can be said to suffer from this condition. In some cases the pain never fully subsides. This type of headache is different from a migraine in the sense that these headaches do not make you sensitive to light or noise and do not usually make you feel sick or dizzy.
These tension headaches feel very much like an ordinary headache that we all get from time to time. The feeling can be described as if someone is pushing a rubber band tightly around your head. The feeling does not seem to change if you move around and you should not really notice a throbbing in your head.
There are simple things that you can do yourself to try and relieve the pain of tension headaches, or even prevent them from coming on. It is said that those who do regular gentle exercise are less likely to get tension headaches than those who do not exercise. Things that you could try are activities such as running, walking, cycling or swimming. You can also keep a diary of when you get your headaches and note down how long they last for. This can point out some of the things that you may be doing that trigger your headaches. Some things are known to cause headaches such as being hungry, using a computer for long periods of time or sitting at a desk all day.
There are drugs that you can try which may help relieve the pain of headaches. It is very common to try painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and these can be quite effective at relieving the headache. These are good for managing the person who gets headaches every now and again, but for someone who suffers from chronic tension headaches and has to take these drugs all the time, this can actually worsen their headaches.
Antidepressant medications such as amitriptyline and mirtazapine are helpful in the case of chronic tension headaches. People who take these medications tend to get fewer headaches and when they do get headaches they tend to not last as long or be as severe. If you are placed onto one of these medications then your doctor will start on a low dose and then gradually increase it until it reaches an effective dose, this is because of side effects. It is usual to try an antidepressant for 6 months and then your doctor may want to see how you cope without it. Some of the side effects are sleepiness, weight gain and dry mouth.
There are other things that you can try such as cognitive behavior therapy that is done with a psychologist or other therapist. This method is a form of counseling and teaches people how to cope with stress. This means that this type of therapy is generally only helpful if your headaches are triggered by stress. Acupuncture has also been said to help with tension headaches, however there is not enough research to say whether or not this would work.
Tension headaches are usually not terribly severe, however if they occur frequently then they may interfere with your everyday activities. There are treatments that can help and one should always bear in mind that these headaches tend to occur less frequently as one gets older.