Tension-type headache - tension headache
headache typically causes pain that radiates
Although headache pain sometimes can be severe, in most cases it's not the result of an underlying disease. The vast majority of headaches are so-called primary headaches. These include migraines, cluster headaches and tension-type headaches. Nearly 90 percent of primary headaches are tension-type.
Tension-type headaches generally produce a diffuse, usually mild to moderate pain over your head. Many people liken the feeling to having a tight band around their head. These headaches may also cause pain in the back of your neck at the base of your skull.
The possible triggers range widely and may include stress, poor posture, depression and even sexual activity. In many cases there's no clear cause. Doctors once believed the cause to be chronic tension in your scalp, neck and jaw muscles.
Signs and symptoms
Tension-type headaches can last from 30 minutes to an entire week. You may experience them occasionally, or nearly all the time. If your headaches occur 15 or more days a month for several months, they're considered chronic. Unfortunately, chronic tension-type headaches may sometimes persist for years.
A tension-type headache may cause you to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Headache symptoms in children
Until a few years ago, researchers believed tension-type headache pain was the result of contracted muscles in your face, neck and scalp and an inability to deal with stress. But more recent research has altered this view.
Although much about headaches still isn't understood, researchers now believe changes in serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain may play a role in tension-type headaches. Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that regulates pain messages moving through the trigeminal nerve pathway — a major pathway for pain. Endorphins are natural painkillers produced by your brain and spinal cord.
Doctors don't completely understand what causes changes in these brain chemicals, but there seem to be a number of factors that can trigger tension-type headaches, including poor posture, working in awkward positions, stress, depression and anxiety.
Headaches in children
When to seek medical advice
Pain is often one of your body's ways of signaling illness. But headache pain, even when it's severe, usually isn't the result of an underlying disease.
Occasionally, however, headaches may indicate a serious medical condition, such as a brain tumor or rupture of a weakened blood vessel (aneurysm). Always be sure to tell your physician about any headache that concerns you. Even if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different.
In addition, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately if you have any of these warning signs and symptoms:
Call your doctor if your child has head pain that's severe or that causes him or her to miss school or other activities. Children who are too young to tell you what's wrong may cry and hold their head to indicate severe pain.
Screening and diagnosis
If you're like most people, you probably don't go to your doctor with a headache. In many cases a couple of pain relievers, a few moments to relax and a good night's sleep are enough to give you relief.
But even when the pain is severe or disabling, you may hesitate to admit you're bothered by headaches. After all, the old notion that headaches are purely psychological is a difficult one to put to rest.
But headaches are now widely recognized as biological disorders. If you suffer from headaches, don't hesitate to seek help — especially if you're concerned about what's causing them.
If you have chronic or recurrent headaches, your physician may try to pinpoint the type and cause of your headache using these approaches: