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Tension Headaches

Tension headache is the most common type of headache by far and the one that a lot of people think of as a ‘normal’, everyday headache. The headache tends to come on later in the day and is usually relieved by rest It usually lasts for 30 minutes to several hours, though can last for several days.

It is felt as a dull constant ache at the back of the head and often behind the eyes, a bit like wearing a tight band around the head. The neck muscles will feel tight, the normal range of movement of the neck may be reduced and the headaches will at times be accompanied by a feeling of nausea.

Most people are likely to have experienced a tension headache at some point. They are more common in women than men and can develop at any age. It is estimated that about half the adults in the UK experience tension headaches once or twice a month, and about 1 in 3 get them up to 15 times a month!

Here is the good news: You do not need to put up with these headaches as chiropractic treatment can be a very effective treatment method at reducing them or even eliminating them all together. And unlike painkillers, chiropractic treats the underlying cause of the pain, not just the pain itself.

The proper name for tension headache is ‘cervicogenic headache’ which literally means headache originating from the cervical area i.e. the neck. The underlying cause of tension headaches is loss of movement of the spinal joints of the neck and upper back and/or tightness in the neck/shoulder muscles. Chiropractic treatment works by freeing up the stiff joints and relax the affected muscles thereby taking away the cause of the headache.

At times the lack of joint movement can cause irritation to the nerves in the neck causing pain where the nerve ends. This is known as ‘referred’ pain and often gives rise to pain felt around the shoulder joint or even down the arm. The pain or pressure so often felt behind the eye during a headache is also referred pain.

The majority of neck problems are brought on by the long-term effect of bad/wrong posture putting excessive strain on the joints and neck musculature. Other causes include manual labour, heavy lifting, car accidents and falls.

Case study:

A 57 year old gentleman came to the clinic recently complaining of lower back pain. During the case history he happened to mention that he had been getting daily tension headaches for 22 years! And was taking 8 paracetamol every day! (That’s 2920 painkillers a year!!)

During the examination stiff joints and very tense muscles were identified in his neck, and it was decided to treat his neck as well as his lower back. After 3 week’s treatment, he was free of these daily headaches! And his lower back was also doing pretty well.

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