Tension and Cluster Headaches – Symptoms, causes, treatments

Tension Headaches

” Tension” headache, like the one Macro had gotten in class, may not be the best name for this type of headache because it implies that only tension is the cause of the pain. Stress and tension can increase and intensify headaches, but they alone cannot cause a headache. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. There are very few people who don’t have tension headaches at least once in a while.

Tension headaches are much different than migraines. The pain in the majority of tension headaches is much less severe than that of migraines. Whereas a migraine can bring your world to a screeching halt, it is possible to function with a tension headache. The pain is still very real during a tension headache, but it is usually less debilitating. Sometimes tension headaches can actually trigger a migraine.

Tension headaches used to be called muscle-contraction headaches. They were so named because researchers
once thought that the tensing and stretching of muscles in the neck, scalp, and face were the cause of these kinds of headaches. Scientists no longer think that is the case. They are now debating whether tension headaches are really a lesser form of migraines.

Episodic Tension Headaches

The most common kind of tension headache is an episodic tension headache. The pain from this headache is a dull, squeezing ache that usually begins gradually. It is often described as a tight band wrapping around your skull, or a cap pinching the top of your head. You may feel the pain around the forehead, scalp, or on the back of the
neck. Most people who experience this type of headache feel as if their head is in a vise. They often find that they can’t relax their neck or scalp muscles. An episodic tension headache is a tension headache that usually occurs no more than fifteen times per month.

The pain from an episodic tension headache is often felt on both sides of the head. This headache is usually mild
but can sometimes be severe. You may find yourself trying not to move your head or neck or holding your head in your hands to try to ease the pain. The pain may last only a few minutes or it may take several hours to disappear.
Some people endure many episodic tension headaches a row, and then the headaches go away for a long time.

The majority of people with episodic tension headaches do not experience such side effects as nausea and vomiting. In very severe cases, however, these side effects may appear. Many sufferers do have some ringing in the ears, slight dizziness, a sensitivity to light and noise, blurred vision, and a lack of alertness. An episodic tension headache can be aggravated by something as small as shivering from being cold.

The exact cause Of an episodic tension headache is not known. Many things may contribute to it. including muscle tension, eyestrain, and poor posture from slouching Over a desk. Contrary to popular intense mental concentration cannot cause this tension headache. Episodic tension headaches can usually be halted with over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or aspirin (Bayer).

Chronic Tension Headaches/Chronic Daily Headache

You may have chronic tension headaches if you begin to have a tension headache daily or almost daily for at least
six months. These headaches are also known as chronic daily headaches. With this type Of headache, there is a sensation of your head and neck being in a cast, The intense pain is felt on both sides of the head and can linger for Weeks, months, and even years. The headache is there when you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning. Chronic tension headaches are very different from other kinds of headaches, which are usually much shorter in duration. They can cause your scalp to become Very Soreā€”so sore that even combing your hair can hurt.

The daily pain of a chronic headache can wear you down. As with episodic tension headaches, the cause of chronic tension headaches is not known. Muscle tension alone is probably not to blame. These headaches could be forms of migraines.

Chronic tension headaches often can be relieved with nonprescription drugs. However, it may take a great number of pills to stop headaches. And taking too much medication can actually cause another headache. Your doctor may prescribe medications to try to prevent these headaches. Preventing a chronic tension headache is often much easier than trying to relieve the pain after it starts.

Your doctor may try to help you figure out exactly what is causing your headaches. If you know what is causing them, you may be better able to manage the pain. Physical therapy, massage, and other relaxation exercises may also help the muscle strain that contributes to chronic tension headaches.

Combination Headaches

A combination headache occurs when the sufferer has both a migraine and a tension headache at the same time. A person who is experiencing tension headaches, with a dull, constant ache, may at the same time develop the severe, pounding pain of a migraine. Other symptoms Of a migraine, including nausea and vomiting, may also
occur.

On the other hand, a full-blown migraine, with its intense, jabbing pain in the head, may also bring about a tension headache. A migraine will often aggravate the muscles of the neck and head to the point where a tension
headache develops.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache is more intense and much more painful than even the most severe classic or common migraine. In fact, it has been called one of the most severe and excruciating pains known to humankind. A cluster headache is a type of migraine and is named after its tendency to occur in groups, or clusters. People afflicted with cluster headaches usually have no aura or warning that an attack is about to begin. The cluster attack begins with mild pain around or through one eye or in the temple area. Within minutes, the pain becomes debilitating and spreads to that side of the face. The pain in the eye from a cluster headache is steady and piercing, and is much different from the pounding pain of other migraines.

It is sometimes described as vicious, and can feel like an eye is being pulled out.” The eye during a cluster
headache also becomes watery and red with a sagging eyelid. Sweating and a stuffed or runny nose usually accompanies the headache. The pain from a cluster headache is so intense that most people cannot sit still during an attack and will often pace the floor or rock in a chair for hours. One cluster headache patient explains, “You can’t lie down because You’re so fidgety. The pain is unbearable.” This is much different than experiencing a migraine, where the sufferer needs to lie still because of the pain.

The average cluster headache lasts approximately forty five minutes, and can occur in clusters, or one right after the other, for a week or two. People are usually struck with cluster headaches between the ages of twenty and forty and men get them much more often than women. Roughly 1 million Americans suffer from cluster headaches. Researchers have discovered that cluster sufferers have many similar physical appearances. The skin texture of most cluster sufferers tends to be coarse and can resemble an orange peel. Cluster headache sufferers are often heavy smokers and drinkers.

Cluster headaches may last from a few minutes to a few hours, and then they reappear. People with cluster headaches don’t usually feel relief with the end of an attack because they know another one will be starting soon. Cluster headaches often start during sleep, usually beginning one to three hours after falling asleep, and the headache usually wakes the sufferer. Cluster headaches can happen several times a day or night for several weeks or months. Then they may mysteriously disappear for months or even years. People often suffer from cluster headaches in the spring and fall, leading researchers to believe they are linked to changes in the hours of daylight available in different seasons.

Although rare, chronic cluster headaches have been known to last for years. The pain may be very severe, but they do not cause permanent harm, such as brain damage. They also do not lead to other disorders. Cluster headaches are often misdiagnosed because they are so rare and because sufferers may only get them every years. In fact, they are most often mistaken for sinus trouble. Some people suffering from cluster headaches
have had teeth pulled, sinus trouble. Some people suffering from cluster headache have had teeth pulled, sinus surgery, or psychiatric treatment in an effort to cure the pain.

The sudden start and the short length of cluster headaches can make them hard to treat. Once the medicine has had a chance to start working, the headache has usually subsided on its own. There are several medications now available, most of which are in nose drop form, that have been relatively successful in treating cluster headaches.

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