Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Tension headaches are usually dull, aching, or throbbing headaches that are often associated with other sensations of fullness, tightness, or pressure (a feeling as if the head is going to burst, or as if it is bound or clamped in a vise). These sensations usually involve both sides of the head and neck, especially where the muscles of the neck attach to the skull. Tension headaches also involve the forehead and temples. This type of headache may last for weeks, months, or even years.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Patients with tension headaches may have nausea or increased sensitivity to light or sound. Avoiding these conditions may prevent the headache from worsening. Because stress and depression often play a role in perpetuating the headaches, counseling or stress reduction therapy is often worthwhile.

Interestingly, patients who have tension headaches generally do not have increased muscle tension. For many years it has been taught that these headaches are caused by excessive muscular contraction and constriction of the scalp arteries. Neither of these speculations are supported by scientific studies. Nevertheless, despite these findings, tension headaches respond best to massage, relaxation, and the use of an antianxiety medication. Simple analgesics such as aspirin or acetaminophen are rarely helpful. In addition, biofeedback may be used to teach the patient how to reduce or prevent these headaches.

The DOs
• Learn effective strategies for reducing your stress.
• Sleep regularly.
• Keep a record of your headaches—time of day they occur, how long they last, associated stress, etc.
• Take your medications as prescribed.

The DON’Ts
• Avoid stimulants such as caffeine.
• Don’t depend upon narcotic analgesics for relief; you may develop an addiction.
• If you feel a headache developing, avoid highstimulation environments (e.g., loud noise or music, bright lights).

When to Call Your Doctor
• If your symptoms are more severe or last longer than usual, or if your headache is resistant to the medication that normally gives you relief.
• If you have a fever, vomiting, or change in vision.
• If you have any difficulty related to your medication.

National Headache Foundation: http://www.headaches.org