by Riad Younes
Seven in ten people suffer or will suffer from tension headaches, associated with stress, fatigue or poor posture.
Seven in ten people suffer or will suffer from one of the "evils of the century." A tension headache is a headache associated with stress, tension, fatigue and poor posture or movement. Despite its name, the cause is not yet entirely clear.
It is most often associated with the contraction of the muscles of the head and neck in individuals subjected to stress, or prolonged work in the office, mostly tied to a computer. Sleeping in an unusual position during a nap or watching TV can also trigger a migraine attack.
Because headaches are very common in the population, the correct diagnosis and differentiation from other more serious causes of headache may be crucial.
The physician should strive to rule out, for example, the possibility of migraine, which is important in managing these patients. Most cases of tension headaches appear in men or women, ranging in age from 20 to 50 years. Rarely after that age. This type of headache can present sporadically at times, when crises do not affect the individual more than 15 days per month.
Headaches are frequently characterized as chronic. Some aspects help to suspect tension headache. Dr. R. M. Pluta described, in the prestigious journal, JAMA, listed symptoms that point in that direction. To make a diagnosis, or strong suspicion, two or more of the following symptoms would be enough:
1. Feeling of pressure in the head, not the throbbing type.
2. Present in both sides of the forehead, temporal region or neck.
3. Intensity generally mild to moderate.
4. Does not worsen with physical activity.
The duration of the headache can vary greatly between half an hour or a week. The most important difference that separates it from a typical migraine includes the lack of nausea or vomiting accompanying the picture of pain. On the other hand, visual phenomena are very common in the migraine, and may be present in people suffering from a tension headache.
Discomfort with light, known as photophobia, or noise, phonophobia, occur in a significant part for sufferers. Experts warn, however, that a diagnosis is not so simple, and recommend that people with progressive worsening of the intensity of their headaches, especially if associated with fever, seek a doctor or an emergency room. It may not be a common tension headache. The doctor or physician is usually a neurologist who must rule out other serious causes of the headaches.
The treatment of a tension headache is simple and includes correcting or avoiding, where possible, the causes that trigger the crisis, such as stress, fatigue and poor posture. At the same time, routine anti-inflammatories and painkillers can bring relief to the patient.
Most specialists also recommend relaxation activities like yoga, stretching, meditation and improving the posture. But they also adivise to use caution with medications.
In a study published recently in the journal, Neurological Sciences, researchers found that 13% of patients with tension-type headache abused drugs and showed signs of side effects. Whenever possible, they recommend a medical evaluation and advice to avoid complications associated with painkillers.
Translated from the Portuguese version by:
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