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Headaches & Migraines: Part 2 – Tension Headaches

Susan Wallis
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Headaches and Migraines can be quite debilitating and can seriously effect our quality of life. Depending on the cause, they can take anywhere from hours, to days, or even weeks to dissipate.
Did you know there are THREE main kinds of headaches that have different causes and symptoms; Migraine Headaches, Tension Headaches, and Sub-occipital Headaches.
In this 3 part series we want to look at some of the causes and solutions of these Headaches, and what to expect if ignored.

In Part 1 of our series on Headaches we discussed Migraine Headaches. In Part 2 we will be looking at Tension Headaches, the symptoms, causes, solution and what can happen if ignored.


Tension Headaches often begin anywhere from late morning to mid afternoon, often intensifying as the day goes on. Usually it can be felt on both sides of the head, neck and shoulders, sometimes feeling like a constant and vice-like pressure on the head, also causing tightness and restricted with neck movement. It often is made worse by a busy or stressful day, with rest often the only relief, although often reoccurring due to continued stress. In some rare cases it can sometimes cause a mild sensitivity to light or noise, but not as severe as a migraine headache.


Stress and anxiety, such as work deadlines, emotional upsets, exams, etc, are often the main contributing factors for this kind of headache, with fatigue and depression both a cause and symptom of tension headaches. Poor posture while sitting at a desk or computer can contribute as well, putting stress and tension on the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. This coupled with poor vertebral alignment in the lower neck or upper back makes it hard to find relief.


While over the counter medications such as Panadol can give some relief, this is only a temporary measure. You will often get some relief from resting or laying down. Changing your regular habits can often make a large improvement in this kind of headache; correcting your work station, the way to sit in the car, or how you watch TV. Taking time away from stress is also helpful, and regular Remedial Massage, coupled with stretches and strengthening exercises, to help relieve muscle tension thus reducing the length and severity of these headaches. However, if there is a structural cause to the tension, a precise adjustment to the correct vertebra can drastically reduce the likelihood of a Tension Headache.


If you decide to do nothing this kind of headache can start to cause problems with the nerves down the arms. You might start to experience symptoms of carpel tunnel symptoms, or pins and needles down part or all of one or both arms. This is because the cause of Tension Headache is often misalignment of the lower neck region. The nerves in this area supply the skin and muscles in the arms. The headaches will often become more frequent and more intense and if left long enough become as bad as Migraines in intensity.

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