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Tension headache: prevent and treat properly
Health experts say that up to 30 percent of the population has occasional tension headaches. Many sufferers quickly take medication to get rid of the symptoms. But often that should not be the case. In many cases, this type of headache can also be treated without pain pills.
Women are affected more often than men
According to the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG), around 20 to 30 percent of the population suffer from occasional tension headaches. Women are affected a little more often than men. From a medical point of view, this headache is in most cases not dangerous. “People suffering from pain understandably still want quick help. It is tempting to take the painkiller, but it is usually not necessary, ”wrote the health insurance company Barmer GEK in a newsletter. Well-tried home remedies for headaches can often help.
As if the head was clamped in a vice
Usually tension headaches occur on both sides. As the health insurance company DAK Gesundheit explains on its website, the pain radiates from the neck to the head and forehead.
They usually feel oppressive and pulling. Unlike migraines, they do not get worse during physical activities.
In addition, there are no nausea, vomiting or visual disturbances.
Some people have increased sensitivity to light and noise. Many patients describe the pain as if the head was clamped in a vice.
Exact causes have not yet been clarified
According to the DMKG, experts have so far only been able to speculate about the possible causes of this type of headache: stress, feelings of fear or muscle tension are suspected.
In more than half of the patients, the muscles are also particularly sensitive to pain - a sign that the pain processing in the brain and the influence of the body's pain-relieving nerve signals are impaired.
DAK Gesundheit also points out that improper posture, gnashing of teeth at night and feverish infections can lead to tension headaches.
And with chronic complaints, there is evidence of a genetic component.
Pain diary can be useful
In order to differentiate the tension headache from other types of headache, the anamnesis is of great importance: In a detailed discussion with the doctor, it is important to describe the symptoms as precisely as possible.
A headache diary can help here, in which the circumstances under which the headache occurs and how long the pain persists.
To exclude other diseases, imaging procedures are sometimes necessary.
A distinction is made between two types of tension headache: If the symptoms occur at least ten times a year, but for less than 180 days, there is probably an episodic tension headache.
However, if a patient suffers from at least 15 days a month for more than three months, it is a chronic tension headache. These should definitely be treated by a doctor.
What can help with chronic complaints
According to the DMKG, non-drug treatment methods are particularly important for chronic tension headaches.
The progressive muscle relaxation, relaxation techniques, biofeedback and other psychological strategies help the patient to "immunize" against the internal and external stress factors.
In addition, the experts advise easy sporting activities.
[GList slug = ”10 home remedies for headache”]
Tips for acute pain attacks
According to Heidi Günther, pharmacist at the Barmer GEK, the following tips have proven their worth in acute pain attacks:
Drink enough water. Because lack of water is often a headache trigger, because in addition to muscles and organs, the brain in particular is not adequately supplied with nutrients.
Rub a few drops of diluted peppermint oil on your forehead and temples and wait until the pain subsides. According to the information, the German Society for Pain Medicine has included this recommendation in its guidelines after studies have shown that 77 percent of the test subjects could do without a pain pill after use.
Exercise in the fresh air: a walk promotes blood circulation and ensures that the head is supplied with sufficient oxygen.
Self-massage: The pressure is reduced by massaging the pain points. These points sit on the temples or on the forehead and can be massaged easily. Take a short break after about half a minute and then repeat as often as you like.
A warm bath or a hot shower can relieve cramps and soothe the pain. A cold stimulus can also be just as effective, for example, by placing a cold washcloth on the forehead.
According to the pharmacist, an occasional use of a headache pill is okay for very severe headaches.
“However, painkillers should not be taken more than ten times a month. Because if painkillers are taken too often, there is a risk that they themselves cause headaches, ”warns the DMKG.
Prevent with moderate endurance training
As DAK Gesundheit writes, good preventive measures against tension headaches have been proven to be regular, moderate endurance training.
This can be slow jogging, for example, but also swimming, cycling or walking.
Because poor posture can also cause problems, targeted posture and muscle building training is recommended.
If psychological stress is the cause, psychotherapy can help.
With chronic tension headaches, relaxation measures such as progressive muscle relaxation or yoga are proven to be effective not only for treatment but also for prevention. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- German Migraine and Headache Society: Tension Headache, (accessed: July 8, 2019), German Migraine and Headache Society
- Health insurance DAK health: tension headache: if it pulls in the head, (call: 08.07.2019), DAK health
- Health insurance company Barmer GEK: tension headache: gentle tips against strong pressure, (access: 08.07.2019), Barmer GEK