What causes tension headache?
The exact cause of tension headaches is still unknown. It has long been believed that they are caused by muscle tension around the head and neck. However although muscle tension may be involved, there are many forms of tension headaches and some scientists now believe there is not one single cause for this type of headache. One of the theories is that the pain may be caused by a malfunctioning pain filter which is located in the brain stem. The view is that the brain misinterprets information, for example from the temporal muscle or other muscles, and interprets this signal as pain.
One of the main molecules which is probably involved is serotonin. Evidence for this theory comes from the fact that tension headaches may be successfully treated with certain antidepressants. Another theory says that the main cause for tension type headaches and migraine is teeth clenching which causes a chronic contraction of the temporalis muscle.
Like migraines, tension headaches seem to be more common in women than in men. Unlike migraines, which often make their initial appearance during adolescence, tension headaches usually begin in middle age. As such, their onset often is equated with the development of adult stresses, anxieties and depression that can characterize mid-life. The name "tension headache" therefore can be said to describe a response by the body to emotional strains and pressures, rather than to excessive muscular tightness and resultant constriction of the scalp arteries, as was once widely presumed. In many such cases, researchers have found that patients complaining of frequent headaches, which are generally not migraines, also exhibit varying degrees of depression, anxiety and worry.
Despite these findings, many physicians and researchers still believe strongly that stress-induced muscular tension in the head, neck and shoulders can bring on tension headaches. This is supported by evidence of muscular tenderness in areas of the neck, the base of the skull, scalp, forehead, face, jaw, shoulders or upper arms in many tension-type headache sufferers. Others show signs of pronounced clenching of the teeth, suggesting that problems related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are causative factors, along with cervical disorders, such as arthritis or degenerative disease of the neck and/or spine, leading to chronic muscular contraction.
Tension headaches result from the contraction of neck and scalp muscles. One cause of this muscle contraction is a response to stress, depression or anxiety. Any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time without moving can cause a headache. Such activities include typing or use of computers, fine work with the hands, and use of a microscope. Sleeping in a cold room or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position can also trigger this type of headache.
Other causes include eye strain, fatigue, alcohol use, excessive smoking, excessive caffeine use, sinus infection, nasal congestion, overexertion, colds, and influenza. Tension headaches are not associated with structural lesions in the brain.
More information on headache
What is a headache? - A headache is a condition of mild to severe pain in the head. Tension headaches and migraine headaches account for 90% for all headaches. Headaches can be single or recurrent in nature.
What types of headaches are there? - A wide range of headache types have been classified in detail by the International Headache Society. Including tension-type headache (TTH), migraine, cluster headache.
What causes headache? - Causes of headaches range from eyestrain to inflammation of the sinus cavities to life-threatening conditions. Most headaches are due to tension, migraine, or a combination of the two.
What're the symptoms of a headache? - Signs and symptoms of a headache involve pain in the head, visual impairment such as blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, hearing impairment, irritability, confusion, malaise.
How're headaches diagnosed? - A physical exam assesses general health and a neurologic exam evaluates the possibility of neurologic disease that is causing the headache.
What headache remedies are available? - Appropriate treatment for headaches is highly specialized depending on the type of headache, individual response, and any associated health conditions.
What's a cluster headache? - Cluster headaches are rare headaches that occur in groups or clusters. Cluster headaches are frequency associated with drooping eyelids, red, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
What causes a cluster headache? - The immediate cause of pain is in the trigeminal nerve. Cluster headaches are due to an abnormality in the hypothalamus.
What're the symptoms of a cluster headache? - The primary cluster headache symptom is excruciating one-sided head pain centered behind an eye or near the temple.
How is a cluster headache diagnosed? - Cluster headache symptoms guide the diagnosis. A neurologic examination may help doctor detect physical signs of a cluster headache.
How to cure cluster headache? - Treatment for cluster headaches is composed of induction, maintenance, and symptomatic therapies. Medications to treat cluster headaches are classified as either abortives or prophylactics.
What alternative cluster headache remedies are available? - Since some cluster headaches are triggered by stress, stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and regular exercise, may be effective.
What's a migraine headache? - Migraine headache is a primary headache disorder with a genetic basis. Adults with migraine describe episodic attacks with specific features.
What causes a migraine headache? - Migraine headache attack is precipitated when pain-sensing nerve cells in the brain (called nociceptors) release chemicals called neuropeptides.
What're migraine headache triggers? - A wide variety of foods, drugs, environmental cues, and personal events are known to trigger migraine headaches.
What're the symptoms of migraine headaches? - Symptoms of migraine headaches include hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness.
How is a migraine headache diagnosed? - The diagnosis of migraine headache rests solely on what a patient describes to a doctor. A diary can help document headache characteristics.
What's the treatment for migraine headache? - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful for early and mild migraine headache. Other drugs used for acute attacks include meperidine and metoclopramide.
What migraine medications are available? - Several nonprescription drugs and some relatively inexpensive prescription drugs are available for migraine headaches. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs may be effective migraine prevention.
How to prevent migraine headaches? - The occurrence of common migraine may be reduced in high-risk people who avoid factors that have been associated with previous migraine.
What alternative migraine treatments are available? - Alternative treatments are aimed at prevention of migraine. Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances.
What is ocular migraine? - Ocular migraine is a term which may have different meanings to different physicians. Ocular migraines usually affect only one eye at a time.
How to relieve menstrual migraine? - Menstrual migraine is a migraine headache that affects a woman each month between the 2nd day before the start of the menstrual period and the end of menstruation.
Migraine headache during pregnancy - Over half of women find that their migraines occur less often in the last few months of pregnancy. About 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women have migraines.
What is tension headache? - Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. The primary cause of the pain is sustained muscle tension. Tension headaches can be episodic or chronic.
What causes tension headache? - Tension headaches are caused by muscle tension around the head and neck. tension headaches seem to be more common in women than in men.
What're the symptoms of tension headache? - A tension-type headache may cause diffuse pressure or tightness. The pain of tension headaches usually is mild (not disabling) and bilateral.
How is tension headache diagnosed? - Most tension-type headaches are diagnosed based on a complete and comprehensive history and physical examination.
What's the treatment for tension headache? - Nonprescription painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen most commonly relieve tension headaches.
How to prevent tension headache? - To prevent tension headaches, many different antidepressants may be effective for individuals with and without depressive symptoms.
What're rebound headaches? - Rebound headaches are those caused by medication taken to relieve regular headaches. Rebound headaches frequently occur daily and can be very painful.
What's analgesic rebound headache? - Analgesic-rebound headaches are caused by successively frequent use of pain relievers, both prescription and over-the-counter medications.
What's ergotamine rebound headache? - Throbbing pain of migraine, in conjunction with escalating doses of ergotamine compounds usually indicates ergotamine rebound headache.
What's a sinus headache? - A sinus headache is a headache that occurs because your sinuses are congested with mucus. Sinus headache pain is due to swelling in the sinus cavities.
What causes a sinus headache? - Sinus headaches can be caused by a sinus infection or allergies. They may become infected with bacteria, a virus, or even fungus.
What're the symptoms of a sinus headache? - Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain or pressure in the forehead or around the eyes and cheek(s), tender skin and tender bones over and under the eyes.
How is a sinus headache diagnosed? -To diagnose sinus headache, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
What's the treatment for sinus headache relief? - Treatment of sinus headache is by treating the underlying condition, which may be allergic or infectious, and by nasal vasoconstrictors and analgesic medication.