Tension Headache

tension headache flow osteopathy
Melbourne osteopath Tim discusses the symptoms of tension type headaches and how treatment can help.

Certainly one of the most common headaches we see at the clinic is a tension type headache. Statistically around 50-75% of adults will experience a tension headache in their lifetime.

For a long time, this headache type was thought to be created purely by psychological stress. However a growing body of evidence is demonstrating that much like migraine, it is the result of sensitivity in the central nervous system. As such, there are a variety of things to consider when trying to reduce its severity and frequency beyond stress reduction.

Firstly, let’s have a quick look at how this type of headache is diagnosed.

Symptoms of Tension Type Headache

There are a few key features of this headache that differentiates it from migraine and other types. These include (1):

  • Tight, pressure like feeling
  • It arises from the back of the head around to the front, often on both sides
  • Mild to moderate pain level
  • Not worsened by physical activity
  • No nausea or vomiting (as distinct from migraine)

Diagnosis of Tension Type Headache

There are three distinct categories of tension type headache, based on how frequently they arise (1):

  1. Infrequent episodic: 1 or less episodes per month
  2. Frequent episodic: 1-15 episodes per month
  3. Chronic: more than 15 per month (this type is often accompanied by nausea)

There are no specific tests to work out if you have this type of headache. Generally it is diagnosed based on the above symptoms.

It is however important to rule out other causes of the head pain that may present in a similar way. Especially if the headaches are new or getting worse.

Treatment of Tension Type Headache

More often than not, people living with this headache will use medications for relief. If it has become a recurrent, ongoing issue it is important to look for the underlying cause/s to prevent or reduce the need to take medications regularly.

Optimum tension headache treatment is holistic and patient-centered. What works for one person may not work for another.

At Flow, we are passionate about helping people determine whether their upper neck is contributing to their tension type headache. We can create significant, sustainable improvements to this aspect of the headache puzzle.

Beyond that, we can introduce you to other evidence based methods proven to be effective.

For more information on how we can help, visit the headache and migraine page.

  1. Migraine and Headache Australia, ‘Tension Type Headache’, reviewed May 2021
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