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  • Richard R. Fay, DC

Tension Headaches - symptoms, causes, and treatments

Tension headaches can be mild or moderate headaches that are described as feeling like a tight band around your head. Many people describe tension headaches as a dull, aching head pain across the forehead, sides of the head, or in the back of the head. Tension headaches may also cause tight and painful muscles around the shoulder, neck and scalp. When tension headaches occur, they typically don't cause nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. However, they may cause mild, moderate, or intense pain behind your eyes.

Types of tension headaches

Tension headaches may occur every day or several weeks or months apart. If you have more than 2 headaches a week for more than 3 months, you may have chronic tension headaches. Several infrequent tension headaches are still a reason to seek care as they can become chronic. Treatment for these types of headaches is something that can be provided with chiropractic care and acupuncture. If you have specific questions and are seeking help for headaches, set up an appointment with a chiropractor in Naperville.

Tension headaches versus migraine headaches

These headaches may be very painful, and can be confused with migraine headaches. Tension headaches may feel like a dull pain that you feel on both sides of your head. Migraines tend to occur on one side of your head and cause a severe pulsing pain. Generally, physical activity will aggravate migraine headaches and doesn't make tension headache pain worse. Migraine headaches may take a long time to recover from, some people even describe the days after a migraine as a ‘hangover’ like feeling. Migraines are caused by vascular (blood vessel) changes whereas tension headaches

are caused by changes in muscle tone.

What causes tension headaches

Pain or discomfort in the scalp, head and neck is often associated with muscle tightness in these areas. Poor posture or a work-from-home station that is not ergonomically friendly may lead to muscle tightness and pain that contributes to these headaches. Stress and poor sleep may also be headache triggers.

Tension headache treatments

People who suffer from these headaches often have very sensitive areas in the muscle called trigger points. The most common area for trigger points is back of the neck or in the shoulders. Trigger points can cause pain in the area affected or they can refer pain elsewhere. If you think you’re suffering from these or another type of headache, set up an appointment with us. We are trained to identify many different types of headaches and can guide you in the right direction.

Can chiropractors treat tension headaches?

Yes. Chiropractors can help alleviate muscle tension through massage and joint mobilization. We can identify ways to improve posture and which muscles may be contributing to tension headaches. We treat headaches regularly and our patients often find relief and start feeling like themselves again. We can also guide you in relaxation exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing and targeted stretches to promote stress management. These relaxation techniques may help address one of the primary causes of headaches - stress and tension.

Can acupuncture treat tension headaches?

Yes. Acupuncture is an excellent way to relieve muscle tension and can be applied to muscle trigger points. Many of our patients report a sense of wellbeing and relaxation after just one acupuncture session. You can find acupuncture in Naperville, and start feeling better!

Along with treatment, living a healthy lifestyle may help reduce and prevent many types of headaches.

  • Get enough sleep.

  • Adopting a healthy nighttime routine.

  • Decreasing time spent on your phone, tablet, or computer.

  • Eating regular, balanced meals.

  • Incorporating movement into your daily activities.

  • Boosting your water intake.

  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine.

  • Reducing or eliminating intake of artificial sweeteners.

When to seek emergency help

Occasionally, headaches may indicate a serious medical condition. If you have any of these signs or symptoms, seek emergency care:

  • Abrupt, severe headache.

  • Headache with a fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness or speaking difficulties.

  • Headache after a head injury, especially if the headache gets worse.

Tension headaches are common, however, that does not make them any less disruptive. People that suffer from chronic tension headaches may be unable to participate in activities and may even need to stay home from work. You do not need to suffer. There is tension headache relief in Naperville. We are here to answer your questions and help you start feeling better.


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