Today is national stress awareness day brought to you by @Mind, so it seems a good time to take a look at tension headaches.
Tension headache is a neurological disorder characterized by a predisposition to attacks of mild to moderate headache with few associated symptoms. This is the most common type of primary headache: its lifetime prevalence in the general population is estimated at up to 70-75%. The pain from tension headaches typically comes from muscle tension, often the muscles of chewing, or those which hold the head stable at the top of the neck. Consequently there is a large overlap between tension headaches and cervicogenic headaches (where the pain originates in the neck, but is felt in the head); where the same headache could be correctly classified both ways simultaneously.
Tension headaches typically last anywhere between a few hours to several days; and are usually caused by stress or tension; whether one feels like a “stressy” person or not. Most cases are episodic; but they can become chronic, or be just a one-off; the key to this is to address the cause of the stress/tension in the first place; this can be through relaxation strategies, or through identification and elimination. The pain is often felt on both sides of the head; in a band-like distribution, and is often coupled with sleep disturbance, and/or tightness in the shoulders, neck or jaw (other physical manifestations of stress). The severity is usually mild to moderate; and they are not associated with any visual or auditory disturbance or sensitivity.