MY HEAD HURTS, IS IT A TENSION HEADACHE?
The odd headache is nothing to worry about – we all get them from time to time, and generally speaking, they resolve on their own, meaning medical help need not be sought. However, in some cases, headaches can be so severe or regular that they begin to impact on our lives. It is at this point that it might be worth getting some advice from a doctor, such as our private doctors here at London Doctors Clinic.
What Is A Headache?
A headache of any kind can be a pretty miserable and trying situation. A headache is a pain in the region of the head and neck, and broadly speaking, there are three common types – migraine, cluster, and tension.
Headaches can be either primary (not associated with an underlying condition) or secondary (associated with a condition such as meningitis or in rare cases, a brain tumour).
Everyday headaches that many of us experience are very common, easily treatable and usually not associated with a serious illness. In this article, we talk in more detail about the most common type of headache in adults – tension headaches. Let’s start by defining what a tension headache is…
Do I Have A Tension Headache?
A tension headache is a headache that feels like a constant pain that affects both sides of the head.
If you have a tension headache, you may feel as though there is a pressure built up behind your eyes, which can make it difficult to keep your eyes open. You may also find that the muscles of your neck and shoulders or upper back are tight and achy. We will talk more about the specific symptoms of a tension type headache later on in this article.
Tension Headache Causes
Many people report suffering from a tension type headache several times a month and this is thought to be due largely to modern ways of living. The true causes, however, are not totally clear. Some factors thought to be involved include:
- Emotional situations
- Stimuli, such as bright light, noises or strong smells
- Muscular strain e.g sitting and staring at a computer screen all day
Tiredness is one factor thought to cause tension headaches
Tension Headache Symptoms
- A constant ache over the entire head
- Mild or moderate pain, which is often reported as feeling like a "tight elastic band wrapped around the head"
- Sometimes accompanied by a craving to close the eyes, or sensitivity to noise or bright lights
- Resolves with treatment or by removing the suspected cause of the headache
- Not associated with other symptoms (such as nausea or vomiting)
Tension Headache Diagnosis
An occasional headache is nothing to worry about, especially if it resolves with treatment. Sometimes headaches can be an indicator that a more serious health issue is happening.
Have A Headache? When To See A Doctor
It is a good idea to book into your doctors surgery if your headache:
- Comes on suddenly, and is severe
- Follows a blow to the head
- Changes in nature (e.g presents with a different type of pain)
- Is unrelenting, even with treatment
- Is associated with other symptoms, such as:
- A stiff neck
- Changes in vision or speech
Your doctor will ask you lots of questions about your headaches and your lifestyle. You may be encouraged to keep a headache diary, detailing the cause, severity and duration of your headaches and this may help you to identify triggers and effective treatments for your headaches. Diagnosis will usually be based on your clinical signs and symptoms.
Your doctor may ask you to keep a headache diary, to keep track of the cause, severity and duration of your headaches
Tension Headache Treatment
Most headaches can be effectively treated using the following methods:
- Over the counter pain relief, such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, which can be purchased at your local pharmacy
- Addressing or avoiding triggers, such as tiredness or stress
- A warm compress against the forehead or neck
- Massage of the tense muscles of the neck and shoulders
- Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
- Light exercise, such as stretching to loosen those tight muscles
- Moderate regular exercise, such as walking or jogging, can help relieve tension and stress
In more severe cases, when your headaches are so regular or severe that they are affecting your life, you can think about taking a medicine called Amitriptyline. In very severe cases, a referral to a Neurologist might be helpful.
For professional medical advice as to how to manage your headaches, why not speak to one of our experienced private GP's today? With nine private clinics across central London, we should never be too far away when you need to find a GP!
By Melissa Dillon