Tension headaches are by far the most common type of chronic headache. People who experience migraines typically also have tension headaches in between their migraines.
Tension headaches usually affect both sides of the head and last from thirty minutes to several days or more. They’re usually characterized by a mild to moderate level of “pressing” pain or a dull, steady ache, though the intensity may also be severe. They may affect your ability to sleep soundly. They are not accompanied by the additional symptoms listed below that distinguish migraine headaches. Women are more likely than men to have tension headaches.
If you are suffering from headaches, all too often, you may be diagnosed with general terms such as tension headache, migraine, or TMJ pain without the true cause being identified. Often the cause are trigger points in one or more muscles, but the diagnosing practitioner is unfamiliar with trigger points. Trigger points can play a very large role in most types of chronic and acute headaches, as well as temporomandibular joint problems, which means you may be able to get a great deal of relief, or even complete relief, by working on trigger points and eliminating perpetuating factors.
Your headache, migraine, and TMJ pain is likely treatable. Indy Myopain Relief Center treats the trigger points, discovers the perpetuating factors in your life and body responsible and teaches you how to care for yourself. We do not inject or prescribe medication. Our treatments sessions usually require about 3 to 5 to really achieve complete and lasting relief. Some longer and some shorter. If your life is your trigger, then we have a maintenance program to keep you pain free.
Causes of Tension Headaches
The most common causes of tension headaches are muscular problems and associated postural problems. Tension headaches are often aggravated by stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, noise, and glare, but they can also be associated with arthritis, disc problems, or degenerative bone disease in the neck or spine.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD),(TMD) can also cause tension headaches... Usually this will be a tension-type headache, but sometimes it will be a combination of migraines and tension headaches.
A 1996 study reported that when subjects were asked to clench their teeth for a prolonged period, it induced a headache in 68 percent of the subjects who had chronic tension headaches. When, chewing muscles and other muscles of the body are treated for trigger points, headaches symptoms usually lessen in a very short time frame.
Trigger Points and Central Sensitization in Tension Headaches
A study by Dr. Lars Bendtsen (2000) confirmed the role of central sensitization in chronic tension headaches... Certain muscles were tender even when the subject was not experiencing a headache at the time.
Bendtsen theorized that long-term inputs from trigger points eventually lead to central sensitization in specific areas of the spinal cord and brainstem, which in turn causes additional changes in the affected muscles, a self-perpetuating cycle that converts periodic headaches into chronic tension headaches. Because of this, even if the original initiating factor causing episodic headaches is eliminated, the trigger point-central sensitization cycle can continue and worsen on its own... This means that whatever causes the lower pain threshold in some people may also cause them to have chronic headaches.
Great News: Treating Trigger Points Can Help!
Indy Myopain and other studies have shown that people who have headaches are almost twice as likely as healthy control subjects to have postural abnormalities, including head-forward posture, and to have trigger points in the back of the neck, particularly the sub occipital muscles. Interestingly, people with migraines were shown to have the same prevalence of postural abnormalities and number and location of trigger points as people with tension headaches, even when they tend to have one-sided migraines (Marcus et al. 1999).
People who suffer from both migraines and tension-type headaches are far more likely to have a greater number of active trigger points (Marcus et al. 1999). The greater the number of active trigger points, the more frequent and severe the headaches. With one-sided headaches, a greater number of active trigger points are located on the same side as the headache. Trigger points will be more tender during a headache and will probably be more tender just prior to and immediately after the headache.
This means that the probability of trigger points being part or all of the problem in the majority of headaches is likely to be high, and there are estimates that the majority of headaches are due at least in part to trigger points (Simons, Travell, and Simons 1999). So the great news is that you can probably relieve much or all of your headache pain with a combination of trigger point self-treatments [Chapters 10-18] and identifying and eliminating all the perpetuating factors [Part II] to the extent possible.