Do you have tension headache symptoms?

Many people confuse tension headache symptoms for migraine, and can end up with the wrong treatment. One problem is that many symptoms overlap, and many people with migraine get frequent tension headaches as well.

Though we used to believe tension headaches (more properly called tension-type headaches) were the most common headache, attitudes are changing.  It's likely that many people diagnosed with tension headache actually have migraine.

Once called contraction headaches, tension-type headaches were believed to be related to the contraction of the muscle that covers the skull.  But studies have failed to always connect these headaches with actual muscle tension.  Now researchers are suggesting that the cause of tension headache is much more like the cause of migraine - a mystery related to brain and chemical functions in the body.

For many people, the situation is more serious, with frequent tension headaches; that is, you get them every month, maybe as often as every other day. You may even have chronic tension headaches - 15 days a month or more. When you consider that the symptoms may last more than one day, you can understand that these headaches can be more than just a minor annoyance!

Typical Tension Headache Symptoms:

Tension headaches often feel like a band of pressure around your head. Your head may feel like it's being held in a vice. If you have a really bad tension headache, you may even experience nausea. Tension headache pain is usually on both sides of the head, though it may be on one side like migraine. Tension headache rarely throbs like a migraine would – it's a steady pain.

Unlike migraine, tension headaches often continue even after you sleep. What a pain!

What causes tension headache symptoms?

Though no one knows for sure what causes tension-type headache, there are things that seem to trigger attacks, much the way attacks are triggered in migraine.  For example, a factor may be poor posture, or by the way you cope with the pressures and strains in your life.  It may be set off by eye strain, fatigue, colds and other sinus problems, and abuse of cigarettes, alcohol or caffeine.

Can I get over it?

Obviously to get rid of tension headache symptoms, the first thing to do is get rid of the things in your life that seem to cause them. Treat your body right, eat well and get a decent amount of exercise.

When it comes to coping with stress, there are a number of things you can do. It may simply be that your body is trained to tense up when you're dealing with stress. Things like biofeedback or relaxation training can help you in that regard (there are some excellent suggestions in the book Conquering Your Migraine that work for migraine or tension headache). Counselling may also help you recognize things that you're doing that may be self-defeating.

Taking time to relax and listen to some nice music is one of the best things you can do (I like some of the nature/music combinations put out by the ever popular Dan Gibson ). Light a candle, get in a room by yourself and enjoy even 20-30 minutes of peace.

Drugs should not be your first solution when it comes to tension headache, but if you have an ongoing problem you may want to discuss further treatment with your doctor. Many of the headache home remedies on this website are appropriate for both migraine and tension headache symptoms. For a temporary solution, common painkillers such as Excedrin Tension Headache may be helpful. A few tension headaches are one thing, but if you're dealing with constant headaches or a migraine/tension headache combination, see your doctor. Why suffer? :)

If you get migraines as well, keep a record of the drugs that you take. It's very possible that too many drugs are actually causing your headaches. If you're taking painkillers when you get a headache, try to make sure you have at least a day or two between pills. (Obviously this doesn't apply to preventative meds) Read more about migraine symptoms and compare.