What is a tension headache?

Tension headache is one of the most common forms of primary headaches. Symptoms are commonly present on both sides of the head and tend to feel like pressing or tightening around the temple or forehead region. However, symptoms can often be similar to migraine-type headaches, with symptoms including nausea or increased sensitivity to light. 

Signs that tension headache is related to the neck include headache associated with pain or stiffness in the neck; dizziness or light-headedness; headache related to neck or head movements; and headache which can be relieved or reduced by applying pressure to the neck. 

Tension headaches commonly radiate or refer from a number of disorders or factors around the neck. These signs could be caused by a number of structures around the neck or head region, including stiff neck joints, tight or overactive muscles, weak stability muscles or even nerve dysfunction or irritation. Physiotherapy treatment or massage can have a very quick and effective result for relieving your headache. Importantly, your physiotherapist will also implement several exercises and techniques to assist you to not only relieve your headache but reduce and prevent the likelihood of recurrence. Mobility and stretching exercises can be useful in reducing headaches in the short term but also in preventing the development of headaches. Additionally, postural and strengthening exercises may also be implemented to address the causes of tension headache.

Some headache symptoms could also be mixed. While addressing the causes of your tension and neck headache may reduce your symptoms, they may not completely cease headache symptoms. Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the different causes for your headache. This may involve liaising and discussing your signs and symptoms with your general practitioner. While imaging does not assist with the diagnosis of tension headaches, imaging should generally be performed if you have been suffering from headaches or head pain for a prolonged or extended period. 

If you feel your symptoms may be related to tension headache, have your headache assessed by your physiotherapist or health professional.

Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy 

Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have, simply send an email to [email protected]

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Written by Jason Lee

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