What are tension headaches?

What are tension headaches?

We explore the mystery behind the most common form of headaches.

Home / Journal / Cognitive Health / What are tension headaches?

Headache disorders are among the most common disorders of the nervous system, with the World Health Organization stating that it’s been estimated that almost half of the adult population have experienced a headache at least once within the last year. Headaches are split into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches account for 50% of reported cases and aren’t a symptom of another condition but rather the condition themselves. The International Headache Society have classified over 150 diagnosable types of secondary headaches, which are caused by other health problems, such as dehydration, sinus infection, and, most commonly, medication overuse.

There are three types of primary headaches—migraine, tension and cluster. Although tension-type headache (TTH) is the most prevalent form, with it being present in up to 78% of headache patients in population-based studies, it is the least distinct, with diagnosis based on the absence of symptoms that are consistent with other primary or secondary headaches. However, it’s typically characterized by a pressing, dull pain which feels as though a band is tightly wound around the head. Global reports show that TTH causes greater disability and accounts for more missed work days than migraine, with episodic occurrences lasting anywhere from a few minutes to weeks.

“These headaches increase the tenderness of the pericranial muscles, which then painfully pulse with blood and oxygen,” explains Dan Kwartler for TED-Ed. “Patients report stress, dehydration, and hormone changes as triggers, but these don’t fit the symptoms quite right. For example, in dehydration headaches, the frontal lobe actually shrinks away from the skull, creating forehead swelling that doesn’t match the location of the pain in tension headaches. Scientists have theories for what the actual cause is, ranging from spasming blood vessels to overly sensitive nociceptors, but no one knows for sure.”

Although tension headaches are commonly treated with “over-the-counter pain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce cranial swelling”, stress, lack of sleep, infrequent meal times and musculoskeletal problems in the neck have also been identified as aggravating factors which can be proactively avoided to aid prevention.

It’s been suggested that magnesium supplementation can be used to improve headaches, with one study finding that it reduced the frequency of migraines by 41.6%. Our MAGNESIUM EASE can be used to help encourage relaxation while delivering 45mg of magnesium in three sprays; it’s formulated with calming lavender for its aromatherapy benefits and anti-inflammatory arnica oil to help relieve tension.