If you have ever experienced pain behind the eyes, pressure and/or throbbing in the head, the feeling like you have a band wrapped tightly around your noggin, then you have likely experienced a tension headache. While these headaches are less severe, they tend to be more chronic in nature, and those who suffer from them feel these symptoms most or all the time. What can happen when not accurately diagnosed is a tragic cycle of overmedication and frustration for the patient.
When a patient complains of chronic headaches, they have usually tried over-the-counter medication, which helps for a while but doesn’t last. Then, depending on how bad their symptoms are, they are either prescribed a stronger medication or referred to a Neurologist for a consultation. If the patient is never referred to a conservative care provider like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Massage Therapist, then they are likely prescribed a migraine preventative and migraine treatment medication which will not reduce any tension causing the symptoms in the first place. It should be noted that this is referring only to patients with a diagnosis of tension headaches. Headaches are broad in presentation and can have multiple contributing factors and patients that truly suffer from migraine headaches receive benefit from the more pharmaceutical interventions. But if the diagnosis is inaccurate, then the patient is started down a course of care that is ineffective.
What actually is a Tension Headache?
“Tension headache” is the common name for the medical diagnosis “cervicogenic headache.” This term indicates that the headache originates from the neck or Cervical region of the body. Specifically, the musculature in the back of the neck are chronically tight, which compresses the joints of the cervical spine and puts tension on the Occipital Nerves. The Occipital Nerves travel up the back of the head and are responsible for the throbbing and pressure that are common symptoms of tension headaches. One quick way to test for this is to apply steady pressure to the base of the skull along the back of the neck. If pressure there relieves the headache symptoms, then you likely are having a tension headache.
What can help?
Conservative care is the most effective treatment for tension headaches. Chiropractic care has been shown to reduce intensity and frequency of tension headaches. Other alternatives like Massage Therapy and Acupuncture have also shown to be successful in treating the symptoms of this condition. These methods focus on correcting the cause of the condition by reducing the tension of the neck musculature which reduces the compression and tightness that causes the tension headaches.