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(Muscle Contraction Headache; Tension-Type Headache)
|Tension Headache: Areas of Pain|
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- Constant, steady pain and pressure
- Dull and achy pain
- Pain which may be felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
- Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
- Intensity ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
- Tightness in head and neck muscles
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxers
- Botulinum toxin injections (Botox)
- Anti-seizure medication
- Beta blocker medication
Self-care During the Headache
- Rest if needed
- An ice pack or heat pack on your head or neck to ease discomfort
- A warm shower, with water running over tense muscles
- Acupuncture—to have more headache-free days and lessen the intensity of headaches when they do occur
- Physical therapy—to develop a home exercise program.
- Massage therapy
- Keep a diary, marking when headaches occur and what you were doing before they started.
- Learn to recognize what provokes a tension headache.
- Avoid or minimize stressful situations.
- Take frequent breaks to walk or move around.
- Make time for pleasurable activities.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and focusing on something pleasant.
- Learn techniques for coping with difficult or stressful situations.
- Make time for friends and build a strong support system.
- Go to bed early and get a good night's sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Do not slouch.
- Hold the phone, rather than cradling it on your shoulder, or use a headset.
American Headache Society http://www.americanheadachesociety.org
National Headache Foundation http://www.headaches.org
Headache Network Canada http://www.headachenetwork.ca
Help for Headaches http://www.headache-help.org
Dambro MR. Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1999.
Goetz CG. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co; 1999.
Melchart D, Streng A, Hoppe A, et al. Acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache: randomized controlled trial. Brit Med J. 2005;331:376-379.
NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2013..
Rakel RE, Bope ET. Conn's Current Therapy 2001. 53rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2001.
Tension headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 19, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2013.
Tension-type headache. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Headache%5FTopic%5FSheets/Tension-Type%5FHeadache. Accessed December 30, 2013.
12/16/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Jena S, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. Acupuncture in patients with headache. Cephalalgia. 2008;28:969-979.
8/27/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Robberstad L, Dyb G, Hagen K, Stovner LJ, Holmen TL, Zwart JA. An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents: The HUNT Study. Neurology. 2010;75(8):712-717.
5/12/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Yancey JR, Sheridan R, et al. Chronic daily headache: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2014 Apr 15;89(8):642-8.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013
- Update Date: 05/12/2014