Friday, 13 November 2020

Chronic Tension Headaches & How to Treat Them

Headaches are well known and a common blight on nearly everyone. They can vary in their symptoms, intensity and duration. When headaches are a common occurrence, they can really affect your day, specifically your energy, concentration and mood.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with an average prevalence of 36% for men and 42% for women.1 Tension headaches are a dull to moderate tightening pain, usually felt on both sides of the head and can be described as feeling like a tight band is wrapped around your head. They are classified as chronic when they occur for more than 3 months and on at least 15 days in a month.

The Causes

Tension headaches are often triggered by a range of physiological and lifestyle factors, and while it is important rule out any serious underlying conditions, the more common causes generally include:

  • Poor posture
  • Excessive muscle contraction in the neck, shoulders or face, such as jaw-clenching or frowning
  • Bright lights or prolonged reading or screen time, which can lead to eye strain
  • Certain medications or overuse of medication
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Fatigue, emotional upsets or depression

Should You See Your Doctor?

It’s likely that many people tend to overlook headaches as just a nuisance and something which everyone experiences at one time or another. While they are most likely coming from something in your lifestyle which you can easily determine, it is important to see your doctor to check for more serious causes in case they are coming from something such as vessel damage or inflammation, infection, or pressure, injury or tumour in the brain.

Book an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Headaches occurring frequently, at least a couple of times a week
  • The pattern of your headaches changes or they become more frequent or intense
  • A sudden thunderclap headache, coming on suddenly and severely or you become unconscious
  • A headache which occurs following a head injury
  • Blurred vision, difficulty speaking, confusion, seizure or numbness in the limbs
  • Fever or vomiting
  • The headache cannot be relieved with medication, you are relying on daily use of medication or need to take higher than the recommended dose of medication for it to be effective

Your doctor will determine the diagnosis by your symptoms, medical history and a physical examination. They may suggest a CT scan or MRI for unusual symptoms or if the pain is constant.

Keeping a record of your headaches is a good idea, noting the timing, symptoms and severity to assist in your diagnosis and treatment.

How to Treat Tension Headaches

Over the counter medications are often recommended for pain, however they are not to be used on a daily basis, and in fact can cause headaches if used regularly. The best course of action is to determine the root cause of the pain and tackle it there.

The simplest way to ease your headaches is with some lifestyle changes including:

  • Limiting the stress in your life - try meditation, tai chi or yoga to help you unwind and improve your general wellbeing
  • Creating balance in your life and looking after your physical and mental health
  • Ensure you eat good food, drink plenty of water, and rest, get a good night’s sleep and engage in regular exercise
  • Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, heat packs, neck and shoulder massage and acupuncture treatments
  • Psychological treatment can assist with emotional pressures or anxiety
  • Chinese medicine uses mind and body practices for healing
  • Prescription medications may be offered by your doctor to treat illnesses such as depression

Chinese Medicine for Headaches

Having been used for thousands of years and taking a whole-body approach, Chinese medicine will determine what may be triggering your headaches and help support your body’s natural ability to heal. Traditional Chinese medicine is a popular treatment, with nearly 3 million Australians visiting Chinese medicine clinics every year.

A clinic will look at your body, your lifestyle and your history including things like sleep patterns, any injuries, digestion and muscular tension. They will not only deal with the physical side, such as relieving any tension in your body, but also help improve your body’s ability to move into a restful state which will restore the quality of your sleep, digestion and function.

Chinese herbal medicines are mainly plant based and may be prescribed for balancing energy and can greatly improve health and the workings of the body and organs.

Another focus for treatment of headaches is acupuncture which is an effective solution for many people. It involves inserting very thin needles into strategic points on the body, or acupuncture points, to restore balance, alleviate pain and help the body heal itself.

A reputable, highly experienced Chinese medicine clinic such as Village Remedies can provide comprehensive and effective treatment for your tension headaches. With a few simple changes, you can rid yourself of chronic pain and enjoy feeling well!

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