Chronic tension-type headache means you have a headache tension type most days or every day. The cause is not clear in most cases. A drug called amitriptyline can help prevent headaches from occurring.
On this page
- What is chronic tension-type headache and who is affected?
- What causes chronic tension-type headache?
- What are the symptoms of each type headache tensional?
- How I can be sure that there is a more serious type of headache?
- What are the treatments for chronic tension-type headache?
What is chronic tension-type headache and who is affected?
Chronic tension-type headache is a condition where you have a headache tension type at least 15 days each headache month.Tension-Type is the common type of headache that most people have in sometime. One study found that, on average:
- About half of adults have a headache tension type occasionally – less than 1 per month. This is called infrequent episodic tension-type headache.
- About a third of adults have two or more headaches per month tension-type, but less than 15 per month. This is called frequent episodic tension-type headache.
- About 3 in every 100 adults has a headache tension-type 15 or more times a month – or nearly every day. This is called chronic tension-type headache.
Chronic tension-type headache is sometimes called chronic daily headache, many people have a headache every day. Chronic means persistent. This does not mean bad as some think. The severity of the headaches can range from mild to severe. Due to persistent headaches, this condition can be very disabling and painful.
What causes chronic tension-type headache?
This condition tends to develop in people who start having headaches tension type more often than usual, until they occur almost every day.
What causes headaches tension-type?
The cause is unclear. Some, but not the most likely, may be due to stress. Thus, the term is now used tension headache tension headache instead. Many headaches tension type develop for no apparent reason. Some may be caused by such things as:
- Emotional stress, anxiety, fatigue or stress.
- Physical tension in the muscles of the scalp and neck. For example, poor posture at a desk can cause neck and scalp muscles to tense. If you squint to read because you can not see well, this can strain the muscles of the scalp as well.
- Physical factors such as sunlight, cold, heat, noise, etc.
Some research suggests that genetics may be a factor. Therefore, some people may inherit a tendency to be more likely to develop headaches tension type more easily than others when stressed or anxious.
By definition, the tension headache is not caused by other conditions. Therefore, if you have a headache, tension-type, a medical examination is normal apart from the muscles around the head may be a little sensitive when a doctor presses on them. Moreover, the tests can be normal.
Note – the overuse of headache medications may be similar to chronic tension-type headache
Medications overuse headache is caused by taking painkillers (drugs or triptans) too often for headaches or tension-type migraine attacks. For example, you can take a lot of painkillers for a bad streak of headaches. You may end up taking painkillers every day or almost every day. Your body gets used then to painkillers. A headache develops retirement after failure to take painkillers every day. You think this is just another headache tension-type, and so taking a new dose of painkiller. When the effect of each dose of analgesic fades, a withdrawal headache develops, and so on. Thus the medication overuse headache develops. It is a common cause of headaches that occur daily, or most days. If you find that you are giving headaches most days, then this may be a cause. Consult a doctor for advice. A separate leaflet called 'Headache – medication overuse' gives more details.
What are the symptoms of each type headache tensional?
- Usually, the pain is like a tension around the hat-band area. Some people feel a squeezing or pressure in the head. It usually occurs on both sides of the head, and often extends into the neck, or seems to come from his neck. Sometimes it is only on one side. The pain is usually mild or moderate, but sometimes it is severe.
- A headache tension type can last from 30 minutes to 7 days. Most last a few hours.
- The headache usually occurs during the day, and gets worse as the day progresses.
- There are usually no other symptoms. Some people do not like bright lights or loud noises, and do not feel like eating much when they have a headache tension type.
The headaches you have with chronic tension-type headache are the same as described above, but occur frequently. In some cases, the headache appears to be permanent, and hardly ever leaves, or only facilitates but never goes off completely.
Many people with chronic tension-type headache hold your headaches without seeing a doctor. In one study, two thirds of those diagnosed with chronic tension-type headache had headache daily or almost daily for an average of seven years before consulting a doctor. Most continued to function at work or school, but his performance was often as good as it could be. Almost half had anxiety or depression, possibly as a result of dealing with their frequent headaches.
If you think you have chronic tension-type headache, it is best to consult a doctor because treatment can help.
How I can be sure that there is a more serious type of headache?
Headaches with tension-type, which are usually well between the headaches, and have no other ongoing symptoms. A doctor diagnosed tension headaches, by your description. Moreover, there is nothing abnormal to find if a doctor examines you (apart from some tenderness of the muscles around the head a headache when present). The tests are not necessary unless you have unusual symptoms, or more than chronic tension headache is suspected. Onsite medication overuse headache should be excluded (described above), and that are often mistaken chronic tension-type headache.
Compared with migraine (the other common type of headache that comes and goes), a headache tension type is usually less severe, and is rather constant throbbing. Also, migraine attacks usually cause unilateral headache, and many people with a migraine feel sick or vomit. In general, unlike migraine, we are usually able to continue their normal activities if you have a headache tension type. Some people have both migraine attacks and headaches tension type at different times.
What are the treatments for chronic tension-type headache?
You also may be used to take painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. But keep in mind: not to take painkillers for headaches for more than a couple of days at a time. Furthermore, on average, do not take more than two days in any week for headaches. If you take it more often, it is possible to develop drug abuse headache (see above). Do not take painkillers all the time to avoid headaches. Take each day as it comes. Perhaps reserves painkillers for days that are particularly bad.
Opioid analgesics, such as codeine, dihydrocodeine and morphine usually not recommended for headaches tension type. This includes combination tablets containing paracetamol and codeine, as co-codamol. The reason is because opioid analgesics may cause drowsiness. They are also the most likely to cause analgesic medication overuse headache if used regularly (described above).
It may be helpful to keep a diary if you have frequent headaches. Please note when, where and how severe each headache, and duration of each headache lasts. Also note anything that may have caused. A pattern may emerge and you can find a trigger to prevent it. For example, hunger, eyestrain, poor posture, stress, anger, etc.
Stress and depression
Stress is a trigger for some people who get headaches tension type. Avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Sometimes, a stressful job or situation can not be avoided. Learning to manage stress and relax can help. Breathing exercises and relaxation, and coping strategies, can relieve anxiety in stressful situations and avoid a potential headache. There are books and tapes that can teach you how to relax. Sometimes a referral to a counselor or psychologist may be advised.
Some people with frequent headaches say they have less headaches if they exercise regularly. If you do not do much exercise, it may be worth trying some of the regular activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, etc. (This has health benefits too.) Is not clear how exercise can help. It may be that exercise helps relieve stress and tension, which may have a knock-on effect of reducing tension headache.
Amitriptyline is a drug commonly used to treat chronic tension-type headache. This is not an analgesic and therefore does not take away a headache if you develop a headache. It is an antidepressant and must be taken every day to prevent headaches. (One of the effects of some antidepressant to relieve pain and headaches prevent even people who are not depressed. Thus, although the amitriptyline is classified as an antidepressant that is not used to treat depression.) A low dose starts at the beginning and may need to increase with time. Once the headaches have been reduced for 4-6 months, amitriptyline can be stopped. Treatment may be resumed if the headaches recur. Other medicines are sometimes tried amitriptyline if not suitable or does not help.
The goals of preventive therapy are to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. So treated, the headaches may not go completely, but often develop less frequent and less severe. Any headache that occurs while taking preventive medication can also be relieved by better than before an analgesic.
Often it is difficult to say in hindsight the effectiveness of preventive treatment has worked. Therefore, it's best to keep a headache diary for a couple of weeks or so, before starting preventive medication. This is to record the timing and severity of each headache was, and how well it was facilitated by an analgesic. Then, keep going as you take daily preventive medicine to see how well things improve. The headaches are not likely to go completely, but the newspaper can show a marked improvement.