Tension headaches: causes, treatment | BRIGITTE.de

Tension headache
Causes and Treatment

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Tension headaches are the most common of the different types of headache. You can find out here how the complaints arise and what helps against them.

What are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache – About a third of all Germans experience the mostly dull pressure pain at least once a month. The headache often appears as a symptom of another illness, but tension headaches form their own underlying illness, for which there are various risk factors such as stress or improper stress.

The resulting pain is usually difficult to pinpoint exactly, but it occurs on both sides. In addition to classic medication, tension headaches can often be treated by using peppermint oil on the temples, among other things. Tension headaches are mostly described as mild with moderate and like to appear episodically – but the duration of these episodes can vary widely. In some patients, the headache subsides after a few hours, and in others for several days. Noticeable: As with migraines, women are more often affected by tension headaches than men.

When do we speak of chronic tension headaches?

There are different types of gradients for the disease, which is called depending on the severity of the tension headache:

  • Sporadic episodic tension-type headache: Mild pain that occurs no more than once a month and twelve times a year. This type of tension headache does not usually require mandatory treatment.
  • Common episodic tension headache: The symptoms occur two to fourteen times a month.
  • Chronic tension headaches: If the headache persists for 15 days per month and for at least three months (a total of 180 days per year), one speaks of chronic tension headaches.

Causes of tension headaches

The exact causes of tension headaches are not clear – However, there are many risk factors that contribute to the development of headaches. It used to be assumed that the symptoms were caused by tension in the neck, neck and shoulder area – hence the name tension headache. In the meantime, however, it is assumed that muscle hardening in these areas of the body actually promotes the development of tension headaches, but other mechanisms also play a role. The risk factors include:

  • stress
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Inner unrest
  • Present diabetes (you can find out what it means to be diabetic here)
  • Bad posture
  • Obesity
  • Existing joint wear, e.g. B. osteoarthritis
  • Incorrect strain on the back muscles (e.g. through frequent sitting)

If a family member already has chronic tension headaches, the risk of getting sick yourself is about three times higher.

Symptoms of tension headaches

It is important to differentiate tension headaches from migraines. However, the two types of headache also differ quite significantly from each other:

  • Tension headaches are often bilateral, migraines more unilateral
  • The pain in tension headaches is often mild to moderate and pressing or pulling, in migraines the pain is pulsating and strong to very strong
  • Tension headaches are often relieved by gentle exercise, which tends to make migraines worse
  • With tension headaches there are hardly any or no other symptoms; migraines are almost always accompanied by symptoms such as sensitivity to light and noise, nausea and / or vomiting

Treatment: Which therapy helps with tension headaches?

If the headache only occurs now and then, drugs that are not available on prescription usually help, for example with the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid. However, if used too often, these agents can even lead to headaches themselves – therefore you should use them for a maximum of three consecutive days and a maximum of ten days per month. Alternatively, the following measures can relieve acute pain:

  • Fresh air: A short walk in the fresh air often helps and lets the tension headaches pass.
  • Peppermint oil: A study shows that peppermint oil significantly improves the symptoms of acute tension headaches compared with a placebo and can even keep up with the effects of medication. To do this, simply massage a drop gently on the right and left into the temples or neck.

Pain in the head? When to see a doctor

Attention: If you notice that you can only get rid of the symptoms with a higher dose of painkillers, should go to the doctor promptly and get advice.

Preventing tension headaches: Here's how

Otherwise it is important to reduce the known risk factors in order to be able to prevent tension headaches as well as possible – then they do not have to be treated in the first place. For example, stress should be reduced as much as possible. Endurance sport helps many patients to compensate for stressful everyday life, jogging or swimming are suitable for this. Tense muscles can be loosened again through targeted training and massage applications.

Relaxation methods such as autogenic training can also help. Those who are prone to tension headaches should also make sure to always drink enough – two to three liters a day should be.

Reading tips: By the way, here you can find out which home remedies help against headaches, what you should know about migraines and what helps with muscle hardening.

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