Tension Headaches

Written by Courtney Salinas
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Tension headaches are the most common of primary headaches. A primary headache is one that is not a byproduct of some other condition but manifests in and of itself. It's often difficult to differentiate between tension headaches and migraines, but there are a few distinguishable differences.

Signs of Tension Headaches

A tension headache is usually recognized by a dull aching pain on both sides of the head, as opposed to a migraine, which is usually identified by a severe throbbing pain on one side of the head. Sometimes tension headaches can develop the characteristics of a migraine, which specialists have labeled tension-vascular headaches. This supports a popular theory that says tension headaches and migraines aren't separate, but that migraines can develop into tension headaches over time.

Tension headache sufferers often have muscle tenderness around the neck, shoulders, jaw, face and upper arms. The forehead and scalp are also tender to the touch. Many tension headache sufferers clench their teeth and have problems related to the temporomandibular joint, which is in the jaw.

Tension headaches tend to be more common in women than in men and most often occur at mid-life. This is believed to be the result of stresses that come with a middle age lifestyle and not of age alone; high stress, anxiety, depression and tension are usually the catalysts for tension headaches. The tension headache is a response to emotional factors. Stress causes tension in muscles in the neck, head and shoulders--these pains in turn cause the headache.

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