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Headaches. “The tension mounts!”

Ever get headaches? Come on, you  know you do. I sure as heck engage in my  share of head and neck rubbing. Well, this will be the first in a series of three posts on a painful, nagging, and frustrating issue for sufferers of depression and anxiety.

As if we didn’t already know, science has taken note of the relationship between depression, anxiety, and headaches. And it’s one of reciprocating impact. For example, within the context of depression, headaches may be a symptom; and dealing with frequent headaches exacerbates a depressive mood. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure just why these relationships exist, other than speculating on the role of  common neurotransmitters…serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Of course, headaches are available in all sorts of tastefully adorned packages. Now, the video offers a short review of the difference between tension headaches and migraines.  I’ll kick things off today by talking about tension headaches, and we’ll get into migraines and clusters tomorrow.

Tension headaches typically present on both sides of the head; often originating at the back of the head and radiating forward. And the pain, though miserable, is usually described as “dull.” It’s kind of like being on the set of a Three Stooges flick, getting your head stuck in a vice. Tension headache pain generally doesn’t worsen with activity.

So what brings them on? Well, here’s a shortlist…

  • excessive stress
  • overexertion
  • working too much
  • poor sleep
  • poor sleeping position
  • too much time in front of a computer
  • bruxism (clenching or grinding your teeth)
  • poor nutritional habits
  • abusing alcohol and other substances.

Other contributors may be the ingestion of foods and additives; such as cheese, chocolate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Oh, and let’s not forget about the headaches that make the scene when we’re craving caffeine or nicotine.

So what can we do about tension headaches? I would imagine most of us have our own tried-and-true treatment regimen. For me, the over-the-counter acetaminophen/aspirin/caffeine compounds work every time. And an icepack just above my eyes, as well as on the back of my neck helps a ton. A heating pad on the back of my neck has brought relief, as well. Those aren’t formal recommendations, by the way (don’t need a lawsuit).

Well, for reference sake, I’ll start a list of tension headache remedies. And we’ll add to it through your comments (hint, hint)…

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics
  • Change in immediate activity
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Cold or warm compresses
  • Stretching
  • Relaxation
  • …and now it’s your turn…

Come back and see us tomorrow as we discuss cluster and migraine headaches.

In the meantime, won’t you comment and offer your thoughts regarding tension headaches, especially measures of relief?