Tension headaches are the most common form of headache that can vary in range from mild pain to debilitating agony. This pain can last anywhere from a few hours to several months. The cause is mostly unknown, but we are aware of the triggers that elicit the pain to begin. Due to the nature of these headaches, there is a wide range of pain sensations a person can feel, from tightness around the head to neck stiffness. Read more for common causes, symptoms, and treatments for tension type headaches.
What Causes a Tension Type Headache?
The most common cause is stress, whether physical or emotional. Stress causes us to tighten or contract the muscle around our head and neck. Since all these muscles are intricately connected, tightening one muscle will create a pull on another muscle. The combined result of the contracting muscles is a feeling of tension around the head that radiates down the neck. People who suffer from these types of headaches will complain of feeling like a band is squeezing around their head, or that they have a stiff neck.
Other causes can be bad posture while working or sleeping. If we strain our neck while we work or sleep, this will also cause a pull on the face and head muscles that are connected to the neck muscles. This pain can even radiate to the shoulders, causing decreased mobility.
Applying moist heat and massaging the affected area is a good initial place to start for relieving the pain. Taking Tylenol and Advil together will help relieve the pain and inflammation, respectively. If you sleep on your side, try sleeping with a pillow between your head and neck to avoid over-straining your neck at night. If all these measures fail, talk to your doctor about muscle relaxants.