- Posted by admin
- On December 6, 2010
- AZ Pain Centers, chronic pain treatment, migraine headache, migraine headache treatment, pain centers, tension headache
The exact cause of tension headaches is still unknown. It has long been believed that they are caused by muscle tension around the head and neck. However although muscle tension may be involved, there are many forms of tension headaches and some scientists now believe there is not one single cause for this type of headache. One of the theories is that the pain may be caused by a malfunctioning pain filter which is located in the brain stem. The view is that the brain misinterprets information, for example from the temporal muscle or other muscles, and interprets this signal as pain.
One of the main molecules which is probably involved is serotonin. Evidence for this theory comes from the fact that tension headaches may be successfully treated with certain antidepressants. Another theory says that the main cause for tension type headaches and migraine is teeth clenching which causes a chronic contraction of the temporalis muscle.
Like migraines, tension headaches seem to be more common in women than in men. Unlike migraines, which often make their initial appearance during adolescence, tension headaches usually begin in middle age. As such, their onset often is equated with the development of adult stresses, anxieties and depression that can characterize mid-life. The name “tension headache” therefore can be said to describe a response by the body to emotional strains and pressures, rather than to excessive muscular tightness and resultant constriction of the scalp arteries, as was once widely presumed. In many such cases, researchers have found that patients complaining of frequent headaches, which are generally not migraines, also exhibit varying degrees of depression, anxiety and worry.
Despite these findings, many physicians and researchers still believe strongly that stress-induced muscular tension in the head, neck and shoulders can bring on tension headaches. This is supported by evidence of muscular tenderness in areas of the neck, the base of the skull, scalp, forehead, face, jaw, shoulders or upper arms in many tension-type headache sufferers. Others show signs of pronounced clenching of the teeth, suggesting that problems related to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are causative factors, along with cervical disorders, such as arthritis or degenerative disease of the neck and/or spine, leading to chronic muscular contraction.
Tension headaches result from the contraction of neck and scalp muscles. One cause of this muscle contraction is a response to stress, depression or anxiety. Any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time without moving can cause a headache. Such activities include typing or use of computers, fine work with the hands, and use of a microscope. Sleeping in a cold room or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position can also trigger this type of headache.
Other causes include eye strain, fatigue, alcohol use, excessive smoking, excessive caffeine use, sinus infection, nasal congestion, overexertion, colds, and influenza. Tension headaches are not associated with structural lesions in the brain.