Tension Headaches: Episodic and Chronic

A tension headache is the most common kind of headache, yet all its causes aren’t understood. The level of pain engendered by this type of headache is usually described as “mild to moderate,” ­­which doesn’t sound so bad when compared to the severe and debilitating pain described by sufferers of migraine and cluster headaches

There are recommended treatments for tension-type headaches that would be described as preventative— practicing healthy habits known to keep such headaches at bay. The problem is that one person’s lifestyle solution does not work for another.

As the name suggests, a tension headache is believed to be brought on by factors such as stress and muscle tension, but researchers also point to environment and even genetics. A tension headache is most likely to be endured, typically with the help of an over-the-counter pain reliever or withdrawing from a stressful situation until it subsides.

Tension headaches build slowly and are rarely associated with nausea or vomiting. They may be chronic, occurring repetitively, perhaps several times a week, even daily. As a rule, they are not as disruptive as migraines or cluster headaches, the latter regarded as the least common and the most painful, known for producing a searing pain behind one eye.

Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Headaches

If tension headaches are sporadic, irregular or far apart, an acupuncture session may not be all that timely or practical. However, if there are any chronic factors, acupuncture via regular appointment is surely a recommended treatment and one that has proven to be effective in numerous studies, especially for short-term relief. A chronic tension-type headache is one that is continuous and may last for hours. If these headaches occur fifteen days or more every month over a span of three months, that is regarded as chronic, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Chronic tension headaches may be confused with migraines, but it is really the pain level that makes the difference. The pain generated by a tension headache, often described as a squeezing band on both sides of the head, as if in a vise, is typically described as aching and dull at a level that doesn’t surpass moderate. That doesn’t mean it is not disruptive to social and family life or effectiveness on the job. The fact that over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription painkillers are sold to the tune of billions of dollars to combat headaches, mostly tension headaches based on the number of sufferers, is proof that even moderate pain can be too much to handle, and if untreated or unresolved by lifestyle changes may become that dreaded “splitting headache.”

Episodic headaches are often described as occasional or sporadic, if not uncommon. In fact, they can gain in frequency to fifteen or more headaches a month, at which time they are regarded as chronic.

So what are common symptoms of tension headaches, whether episodic or chronic?

√ Dull, aching head pain

√ Tightness or pressure on the sides and back of the head or across the forehead

√ Tenderness in the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles

√ Tightening of the shoulder muscles as a preliminary to or during the headache


—Will Acupuncture Ease Your Headache? Call us today at (201) 651-9100 for an appointment at Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy.