You are here:    Home  /  What are Headaches and What Causes Them?

What are Headaches and What Causes Them?

headaches symptoms

Not all are aware that there is a medical term for headaches, and that is called “cephalalgia.” Regardless of what it is called, it is referred to as a continuous pain in the head and neck area of the person. The source of pain is located in areas with receptors responsible for sensing pain, excluding the brain, which does not have a single pain receptor. Headaches happen due to a lot of factors. Los Angeles Pain Clinic is knowledgeable when it comes to determining the causes of headaches. Our clinic’s doctors can also provide the most rightful treatment for our patients.

According to the International Headache Society or IHS, headaches are categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary headache is the most common, and is usually not a symptom of an underlying disorder or ailment. This form of headache is brought about various factors, including the brain’s chemical activity and tension on the head and neck muscles that usually affect the nerves or blood vessels on the head outside the skull. Common primary headaches include cluster headache, migraine, and tension-type headache. Meanwhile, a secondary headache occurs at the onset of an already-existing disorder or ailment. There are headaches that may be due to an infection, a psychiatric disorder, cranial or cervical vascular disorder, or any ailment affecting important parts of the head and neck.

About Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are types of primary headaches that are considered as the most common. In fact, it is said to account for almost 90 percent of all headaches. It is quite common among adults and adolescents, but quite uncommon for younger children. It happens due to the tightening of the muscles that are situated on the particular parts of the head, scalp, and/or neck. The pain associated with this type of headache ranges from mild to moderate. People who suffer from tension headaches feel like a band is placed tightly on the head.

Head injury, as well as stress, depression, and anxiety, are said to cause tension headaches, in which the affected person experiences muscle tension buildup in the scalp and neck muscles. But then, recent research suggests that sufferers of tension headaches don’t appear to have any noteworthy increase in muscle tension. Medical experts also think that this type of headache is due to the changes in the chemicals in the brain, which are responsible for helping the nerves do its job. These chemicals include serotonin, endorphins, and others.

What are the Causes of Tension Headaches?

While the real cause of tension headaches are unknown, medical professionals point to these various factors:

  • Stress
    It is said that stress is the most commonly reported trigger for tension headaches, as well as migraines.
  • Depression
    Chronic types of tension headaches are often linked with depression.
  • Anxiety
    Extreme worry or fear can put a person’s stress on a higher level, and may most likely trigger a tension headache
  • Bad posture.
    Not having a correct sitting and standing posture may cause a person to experience muscle tension in his or her muscles in the shoulders, upper back, and neck. Prolonging bad posture may result in tension headaches.
  • Staying in one position for a long stretch of time.
    Sitting for hours or standing for hours could result in muscle tension, which may then lead to tension headache.
  • Clenching the jaw.
    Teeth grinding, as well as clenching the upper and lower jaws together, can both trigger tension-type headaches.
  • Caffeine.
    Research suggests that people who drink large amounts of coffee or any caffeinated drink are prone to experiencing tension headaches than those who tend to drink less or don’t drink at all.

Various Treatment Approach for Tension Headaches

The treatment for a patient’s headache, regardless of type, depends on various factors, and these include the overall physical and mental health, as well as the lifestyle, of the patient. For the most part, taking medication is still the primary treatment option for headaches, especially tension headaches. Most prescription drugs are available over the counter, and are greatly effective in relieving the pain. However, overdose of certain drugs may have drastic effects, including worsening headaches due to developing rebound headaches.

Meanwhile, here are some of the common prescription drugs for alleviating pain associated with headaches:

  • Pain killers.
    These include aspirin, paracetamol, and ibuprofen. Severe symptoms of headaches can be treated by taking naproxen or any other drug prescribed by the doctor.
  • Drugs that can be combined with a sedative or caffeine.
  • Triptans and opiates.
    Although they are effective in relieving pain, they, especially opiates, must be taken with the right amount of dosages. Failure to do so may lead to drug dependency and other side effects that might worsen headaches.
  • Acupuncture
    Sticking needles on the person is also a therapeutic way to relieve headaches or migraine.

Aside from medication, there are other ways to deal with the pain associated with headaches. These are the following:

  • Headache journal. A person can write a journal detailing every instance in which he or she suffers a headache. Every entry should be in detail, noting sleep patterns, eating habits, and stress-inducing factors. That way, he or she may be able to pinpoint the triggers for his or her headaches.
  • Lifestyle changes. Going away from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle may help completely eliminate occurrences of headaches. Having enough sleep, and undergoing exercise and stretching routines can get the job done.
  • Diet. Healthy food and drink choices constitute a lifestyle change, and may likewise help prevent recurring headaches.
  • Adjustments at work. One headache trigger is stress, especially from doing work. There are many ways to lessen job-related stress, and it can be done by having a talk with the boss or human resources manager.
  • Depression. One of the many symptoms of depression is chronic or long-term tension headaches. A person suffering from this condition may have to consult a doctor for an antidepressant prescription.
  • Exercises such as yoga and/or Tai Chi. Doing any of these may help relieve stress that causes headaches. It is very important that the therapy is done with an exercise expert who is well-trained.

Will I Get Better from Tension Headaches?

People who suffer tension headaches or any other headache respond well to treatment. The effectiveness of the treatment for headaches is usually seen on the person’s adherence to the instructions of the medical professional. The only instance wherein treatment is a failure is when the person fails to follow the doctor’s instructions.

Meanwhile, to know more about the other types of headache, or if you have inquiries with regard to your condition, then you may consult with our doctors here in our Los Angeles face pain clinic as soon as possible. Our clinic serves people from Los Angeles and Santa Monica.