(Muscle Contraction Headache; Tension-Type Headache)
|Tension Headache: Areas of Pain|
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- Constant, steady pain and pressure
- Dull and achy pain
- Pain felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
- Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
- Intensity ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
- Tightness in head and neck muscles
- Neurological exam
- Blood tests
- Neck x-ray—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
- CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
- MRI scan—a type of machine that uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
- Over-the-counter pain pills—Continuous use of some over-the-counter medication may create rebound pain when you stop taking the drug. Using these medicines too much can cause headaches. Pain medications are most effective when taken at the first sign of pain and before it becomes severe.
- Prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)or muscle relaxants
- Drugs to prevent headaches, if you suffer from daily tension headaches
- Antidepressant medications, even if you are not clinically depressed
- Botulinum toxin injections (Botox)
Self-care during the Headache
- Put an ice pack or heat pack on your head or neck to ease discomfort
- Take a warm shower, with water running over tense muscles
- Massage your temples and neck
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Acupuncture—Acupuncture may help you to have more headache-free days and lessen the intensity of headaches when they do occur.
- Physical therapy—Physical therapists can help you develop a home-exercise program.
- Massage therapy if the pain is in your neck and shoulders
- Keep a diary, marking when headaches occur and what you were doing before they started.
- Learn to recognize what provokes a tension headache.
- Avoid or minimize stressful situations.
- Take frequent breaks to walk or move around.
- Make time for pleasurable activities.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and focusing on something pleasant.
- Learn techniques for coping with difficult or stressful situations.
- Make time for friends and build a strong support system.
- Go to bed early and get a good night's sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Do not slouch.
- Hold the phone, rather than cradling it on your shoulder, or use a headset.
American Headache Society http://www.americanheadachesociety.org
National Headache Foundation http://www.headaches.org
Headache Network Canada http://www.headachenetwork.ca
Help for Headaches http://www.headache-help.org
American Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org. Accessed October 12, 2005.
Dambro MR. Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.
Goetz CG. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co; 1999.
Melchart D, Streng A, Hoppe A, et al. Acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache: randomized controlled trial. Brit Med J. 2005;331:376-379.
National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org. Accessed October 12, 2005.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/. Accessed October 12, 2005.
Rakel RE, Bope ET. Conn's Current Therapy 2001. 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2001.
Tension headache. EBSCO Publishing DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Accessed October 20, 2007.
Tension headache. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tension-headach/DS00304. Accessed January 17, 2009.
12/16/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Jena S, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. Acupuncture in patients with headache. Cephalalgia. 2008;28:969-979.
8/27/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Robberstad L, Dyb G, Hagen K, Stovner LJ, Holmen TL, Zwart JA. An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents: The HUNT Study. Neurology. 2010;75(8):712-717.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 09/20/2011 -