Tension Headache Or Migraine

Tension headache or migraine are the commonest forms of a headache and, although women tend to suffer slightly more than men, most people will experience a tension headache at some point in their life.

Migraine or tension headache was originally so-called because it was believed that they resulted from a contraction of the muscles in the face, scalp, and neck which resulted from tension or stress. This, however, has not proved to be the case and, as a result, tension headaches are now more correctly called tension-type headaches. Over the years this form of a headache has been given a variety of different names including depressive headaches, essential headaches, muscle contraction headaches and ordinary headaches.
Tension Headache Or Migraine
Tension Headache Or Migraine

Nowadays it is thought that tension headaches are caused by changes in the chemistry affecting the levels of serotonin, endorphins and other chemicals. These chemical changes are very similar in many ways to those seen in migraine headaches, and it is therefore believed that the two type of a headache is related. Unlike a migraine headache however tension-type headaches are not normally accompanied by visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting and weakness or numbness.

In the majority of cases, a tension-type headache is characterized by a dull ache rather than a sharp pain, and this can be slight to moderate in nature and, in rare cases, severe. Many people also experience tenderness to the scalp, neck and shoulders and a range of different symptoms including tiredness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, difficulty in concentrating and a loss of appetite. Headaches normally last for anything from 4 to 6 hours but can be much shorter or considerably longer on occasions.

Tension-type headaches are categorized as either episodic or chronic. Episodic headaches are those which occur on fewer than 15 occasions each month, while chronic tension-type headaches occur on more than 15 days each month for six months or more.

In most cases, tension-type headaches can be very effectively treated using over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol. It is important however not to overuse these medicines as doing so can make matters worse and cause rebound headaches. For chronic sufferers, and where normal pain relief medication proves ineffective, your doctor may prescribe various forms of preventative medication including tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticonvulsants, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.

In the vast majority of cases, it is possible to considerably reduce the incidence of tension-type headaches by adjustments to your lifestyle to ensure that you are eating properly, maintaining a good sleep pattern, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels.

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