Does your head hurt as if a band was squeezing it from temple to temple? As if pain were a helmet that oppresses you? Do you feel tingling in the scalp? Do your neck hurt and even the area that includes the collarbone and scapula? Are you having sleep problems and eye discomfort? Well, we are sorry to say it but these are the typical symptoms of tension headache, “the most frequent subtype in primary headaches, that is, those types of headache in which pain constitutes the core of the clinical picture and not a symptom of another nosological entity, ”says Dr. Arias Gómez, a neurologist and member of Top Doctors.
Also a Top doctor member and neurologist, Hari Bhatal Guede states that tension headache affects 70-80% of the population at some time in their life. “Almost everyone has experienced it, and it is related to episodes of fatigue, overload, and emotional stress .” According to Dr. Arribas, this pathology can occur at any age, occurs equally in men and women, does not worsen with exercise, is not accompanied by phono or phobia (disturbing noise or light) and allows work. In more advanced ages it can be accompanied by dizziness. In addition, there is a genetic susceptibility to suffering from it.
What motivates tension headaches?
Tension headache occurs when excessive and prolonged contraction occurs overtime of the perineal muscles, which eventually sensitize peripheral and central pain pathways.
And what causes this contraction? “ Personal, professional and social stress, alterations and sleep deprivation, overwork, maintained postures (staying for hours at the computer), a noisy and poorly lit work environment… In addition to emotional disorders such as syndromes anxious and depressive more or less Barbados, without forgetting the harassment and bullying ”, enumerates Arias Gómez.
The pain can last for days and even weeks. Arias advises seeing a doctor if it lasts for more than a week or if even taking simple analgesics such as paracetamol, nolotil and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), no improvement is observed. And, of course, if we feel that pain is interfering in our lives.
Tension headache is usually repeated but not in all cases it ends up becoming chronic.
Tension headache treatment
The pain caused by tension headaches can be fought from different fronts. The first is through drugs. “In addition to the analgesics described above, we usually prescribe tricyclic antidepressants at low doses (amitriptyline or nortriptyline at night) and in other situations, where they are contraindicated, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (sertraline, fluvoxamine, paroxetine are used) ); the above drugs can be combined with anxiolytics (benzodiazepines) and sometimes with muscle relaxants such as tizanidine, ”says Dr. Arias.
The techniques EMG-biofeedback have proven effective in cases of tension headache. They consist of placing electrodes on the patient’s muscles so that they report the degree of contraction and relax them.
Other methods that relieve pain are manual physiotherapy and dry puncture in case there are myofascial trigger points in the neck and shoulder girdle (between clavicle and scapula). A myofascial trigger point is a nodule that can be felt on the skin and located in a tense band of muscle. It causes severe pain at that same point but it can also produce pain in a distant area (referred pain).
“In addition, adequate rest, relaxation techniques, physical exercise, and sleep hygiene are measures to be implemented in many cases,” says Arias.
Is tension headache dangerous for the brain?
Asked if the tension headache could affect the brain, Dr. Arribas lists as possible side effects a decrease in attention, cognitive, artistic and even sexual performance. It can also be accompanied by symptoms of fibromyalgia, with widespread pain.
The neurologist points out that it is a possible danger to develop a dependence on analgesics, especially if they are opioids.
Tension headache prevention
At this point, we have to know if something can be done to prevent tension headaches. Arribas recommends living in an appropriate family, work and study environment as well as recognizing and treating emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, which can trigger it. Of course, it is recommended to visit the neurologist if you have the aforementioned symptoms for an adequate study, diagnosis and early treatment.
Other gestures that can help prevent are:
– Change the pillow or sleep posture.
– Ensure that you have a good posture when reading, working or performing other activities.
– Stretch and exercise your back, neck, and shoulders frequently while writing, working in front of the computer and in similar activities.
– Exercise more vigorously whenever possible and with the consent of the doctor.
– Check your eyesight and if glasses are needed, wear them!
– Learn to manage stressful situations. Relaxation exercises and meditation can be beneficial.