Lifestyle & Health: Struggling with tension headache

May 28, 2018

Madden's father recently passed away suddenly. Dad was ok, then he was ill for one week, after which he died. Madden still can't come to terms with what occurred. It's been like a nightmare - unreal. His dad was the best. He lived with his three children and did his best by them all his life. Madden isn't used to headaches, but he's been having a really bad recurring one for weeks now, since his dad passed. He's the eldest, and there's been so much to do. Panadol and Advil don't completely relieve his headache, and the pain comes back very soon after the pills wear off. He feels pressure in his forehead and tightness to the back of his neck. He doesn't have time to wait at the doctor right now. Madden hopes Lifeline can help him feel better.


It's so hard to lose a good father. In Jamaica, it is a true blessing to be able to say that your father was a good man who cared for his children, helped pay their bills, and took great interest in them all of his life. What a blessing his father was to Madden and his family! And it is by taking strength from this fact that Madden should try to move on, move forward from the shock, taking one day at a time for now.

Madden seems to be experiencing a tension headache, where pain is felt over the lower part of the head at the back, over the neck, and even behind the eyes. Tension headaches are very common and account for nearly 90 per cent of all headaches. Tension headaches are usually mild to moderate. Tension headaches usually present some of the following symptoms:

- Pressing or tightening sensation (non-pulsating)

- Pain in both sides of the head

- A feeling as if the head is being squeezed in a vice

- No aggravation by routine physical activity

- Usually mild to moderate pain

- No nausea or vomiting

- Possibly mild photophobia (eye pain with light) or phonophobia (noise worsening the pain)

- Scalp tenderness

Tension headaches can be precipitated by stress, bad posture, insomnia, hunger, muscle tension around the head, and do neck and eye strain.

They can be prevented by practising healthy lifestyles. Relaxing makes these headaches less likely to occur. Managing your stress is key. Exercise, and yoga and breathing exercises. Do stretches and increase water intake. Good posture will help to prevent tension headaches, especially if neck pain is experienced. Avoid jaw clenching, which not only leads to tempero-mandibular joint dysfunction, but also causes tension headaches.

Tension headaches can occur over a short period in one's life or can be a chronic response to stress. The treatment differs. When these headaches occur chronically, antidepressant medication is often used to help prevent them. Amytriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, has been found to be useful in treatment but requires a doctor's prescription.

Over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen can help relieve the pain experienced with most tension headaches but may not work for long. A short, term sedative or mild anxiolytic tranquilliser) might also be needed for a short time to achieve a more lasting effect in stress reduction.

Also, first, make sure you're not dehydrated. If you're busy and very physically active, you may forget to drink enough fluids and become dehydrated. Dehydration is an easily rectifiable cause of tension headaches! Ultimately, stress reduction is the permanent solution. Drinking alcohol tends to worsen these headaches.

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