Check-Up: Dealing with tension headaches

November 04, 2019

Dear Readers,

Jermaine e-mails Check-Up with a problem. He is having some bad headaches, which keep recurring. He even did a CT brain scan but it didn’t show up any disorder.

Jermaine wonders what’s going on. The doctor also mentioned that he could be tired from long work hours in his new job which isn’t easy. Jermaine says he feels a pressure around his head, like a pressing pain, which comes on in the afternoons and sometimes even later on. He can work with it, but it’s a nuisance! He never used to have headaches much at all.

There are two commonly seen types of headaches. Those caused by stress and worry, called ‘tension’ headaches, and others called ‘migraine’ headaches that can be inherited or can be triggered by different food types, especially by cheeses, which all contain tyramine, and also by stress. Jermaine seems to be describing a tension headache.

A tension headache causes a dull, tightness or what might feel like a bandlike pressure around the forehead. It may also affect the back of the head and neck with a similar tight feeling. These tension type, stress, headaches are the most commonly occurring headaches and can occur episodically (less than 15 days out of each month) or can be chronic (occurring more than 15 days out of each month). These headaches can last from as short as a half an hour up to several days.

Tension headaches are a discomfort but they don’t usually keep you from your work, and can be differentiated from migraine headaches because they don’t cause bad feelings like nausea or dizziness and are not associated with blurred vision or flashing lights or weakness. These symptoms are usually related to migraine headaches.

However, tension headaches are pretty common and have been documented to occur in over 80 per cent of adults at some time. They are more commonly seen in women and most people only experience them a few days out of the month most of the times. However, under certain conditions they can occur more frequently.

Tension headaches are triggered by stress, whether the stress is coming from work, home, school or difficult relationships. People can also experience tension headaches because of poor posture, just sitting badly in a chair at work can set one off. And they are associated with feeling tired and feeling hungry or feeling anxious or depressed.

If tension headaches are interfering with the pace and progress of your life then you must see a doctor.





· Avoid triggers like lack of sleep, or over work.

· Learn to manage stress with exercise and relaxation techniques like listening to music or yoga stretches. Get a body massage.

· Take pain killers. Usually over the counter pain killers like Advil and Panadol or Panadine will relieve the pain, but sometimes a prescription muscle relaxant is needed.

· Take a hot bath, change your posture, apply an ice pack to your forehead and neck region

· Check that your blood pressure isn’t high. High blood pressure can also present with a heaviness or pressing pain to the head

· If the headaches aren’t resolving over a few days then you should see a doctor to ensure that there isn’t an unknown cause for the headache

· Try lifestyle changes. Exercise regularly and ensure that you get 6-8 hours of sleep each day (best if sleep hours are all at one sitting!) and pace your life. Off work time is just as important as working hours! Eat regular meals, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation

· Drink adequate amounts of water


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