Tension headaches: causes, symptoms and treatment of these headaches: Femme Actuelle Le MAG

Blurry vision, tingling, nausea, twinges in the head … These different signs can appear when you have a headache. Headaches, also called "cephalgias", are pain felt and centered on the cranial region. According to Health Insurance, nearly one in two people over the age of 15 report having headaches, most often occasional and short-lived.

There are several primary headaches. Among them are migraine, cluster headache, and headache from overuse of drugs. Tension headache is also on the list. The latter is little known to the general public. However, it affects more than 70% of people in certain populations, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). The individuals concerned are said to suffer from episodic tension headaches.

What is a tension headache?

Tension headaches are called primary headaches because they do not correspond to symptoms of a pathology. They often appear in adolescence. These mild to moderate headaches affect both sides of the skull and are experienced as muscle or nerve pressure or tension. They radiate, in general, the temples, the neck, the forehead and sometimes the neck. These headaches are the most common causes of prolonged headaches.

The seizures, which occur at the end of the day, can last a few minutes or certain hours as they can persist for several days. The WHO indicates that this headache affects 3 women for every 2 men and its chronic form, which affects 1 to 3% of adults, can last for more than 15 days per month.

What is the difference between a tension headache and a migraine?

Unlike tension headaches, migraine headaches are pain of moderate or severe intensity that localizes to one side of the head. It is "throbbing" or "pulsatile", namely throbbing. This pain is exaggerated by exertion or by daily activities. Migraine headaches are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia (intolerance to light) or phonophobia (intolerance to noise). This is not the case with tension headaches. Another difference: migraines are caused by psychological, hormonal, food or lifestyle factors.

Tension headaches: what are the causes?

Tension headaches are often linked to fatigue and psychological tension. Stress can also cause the onset of these primary headaches. Cervical musculoskeletal problems can also be responsible for their occurrence. True migraine attacks can also trigger them.

What are the symptoms of tension headaches?

Tension headaches are characterized by a tight feeling, which is pressure or "tightness" around the head. This pain begins with the front of the head or in the area around the eyes. It then spreads over the entire head. This continuous and diffuse pain is accompanied by a feeling of an empty head with difficulty concentrating or, on the contrary, a heavy head. It does not get worse with exertion but during times of stress. Its improvement is observed when the sufferer is relaxed.

Tension headaches: how to diagnose it?

"In the management of headaches, it may be important to understand the triggering factors, the type of pain (its location, intensity, duration and frequency) and the presence of other associated disorders", can be read on the page of the neurology department of the Vaudois University Hospital (CHUV).

In the case of tension headaches, the diagnosis is clinical. The patient should describe the headache in question and the doctor should perform a physical examination to confirm the diagnosis. Additional examinations are generally not requested by the practitioner. However, for recent headaches, a computed tomography (CT) or MRI of the brain may be done to rule out any disease, which may be causing the pain, the MSD Manual specifies.

How to treat tension headaches?

Most headaches are mild and can be calmed with simple actions, such as staying hydrated, avoiding exercise, or resting in peace. Treatment for tension headaches is based on taking pain relievers, such as paracetamol, aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) to relieve the pain. Massaging the painful area can also help ease the pain. If the pain relievers do not work and the headache is severe, it is probably a migraine and not a tension headache.

"The treatment of frequent episodic headache and chronic tension headache is more difficult. Repeated use of analgesics should be avoided in order to prevent drug abuse. Management should be comprehensive and may combine treatment. pharmacological background (most often an antidepressant at low doses for analgesic purposes), to a non-pharmacological treatment allowing better stress management (relaxation, sophrology, hypnosis, cognitive-behavioral therapies) and a limitation of muscle maintenance factors (physiotherapy, gingival splint in the event of dysfunction of the temoporo-mandibular joint) ", specifies on its site the French Society of Studies of Migraines and Headaches (SFEMC).

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