What Are Latent Trigger Points
A latent trigger point can be described as a tight area within the muscle tissue that is hidden beneath the surface. You dont know it exists until it accidentally or purposefully gets pressed on. Because of this, its possible that one of these trigger points has existed in your body and has remained unaddressed for a long period of time.
What Is Chronic Tension Headache And Who Is Affected By It
Chronic tension headache is a condition where you have a tension headache on at least 15 days every month for at least three months.This can be tiring and depressing. Tension headache is the common type of headache that most people have at some time.
It’s not known exactly how common chronic tension headache is, as few studies have looked at this clearly. Some studies have estimated that around 1 in 30 of all adults have chronic tension headaches – which means they have a headache on more than half of all days for three months or more. However, it is possible that a proportion of these patients actually have developed medication-overuse headaches as a result of their tension headaches. Therefore, it can be difficult to be certain which is their main problem.
Chronic means persistent it does not mean severe. The severity of the headaches can vary from mild to severe. Because of the persistent nature of the headaches, however, this condition is often quite disabling and distressing, and most patients take preventative medication.
Not All Headaches Are The Same
Before your doctor can start narrowing down the cause of your constant headaches, its helpful for them to know what type of headaches youre experiencing. Its estimated that tension, migraine, and cluster headaches account for 90 percent of all headaches, Dr. Chen says. Only your doctor can determine which type of headache youre having, but its useful to understand the hallmarks of each kind so you can better describe your symptoms to your doctor.
Recommended Reading: Migraine Factor X
How Are Tension Headaches Treated And Diagnosed
Tension headaches are diagnosed based on the patient’s reported history of the headache and physical examination. There is no test to specifically confirm tension headache. Because the physical examination in patients with tension headache is generally normal, additional testing such as CT scan or MRI scan usually isn’t required. Some basic blood work may be done to confirm that no underlying abnormality is present.
Muscle Knots And Migraines
If you suffer from migraines, it can be helpful to apply ice to the back of the neck for 5-10 minutes after releasing trigger points. Apply ice, a cold pack, or cool cloth for 5-10 min at the base of the skull and around the jaw after applying pressure to trigger points.
Direct, prolonged pressure to release the trigger points responsible for migraine pain creates muscular relaxation which allows for increased circulation to the area. It also creates a biochemical effect that causes vasodilation systemically. This vasodilation enhances blood flow to areas of the body that are lacking oxygen and/or nutrients.
Its important to know that direct pressure on these trigger points may temporarily increase the symptoms of migraines. However, over the long run, these muscle knots release and provide long term relief. One of the best practices is to release these muscles regularly, when youre not experiencing symptoms, to change the pattern of the muscles and prevent future headaches.
Treatment Of Tension Headache
Both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments are useful in providing relief from tension headache. A few examples of common treatment methods for tension headaches are:
- Pain-relieving medications. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are commonly available over-the-counter and provide relief from tension headache pain. Combining two or more drugs such as aspirin and/or acetaminophen with caffeine into one drug for some people may have better efficacy than single drug medications. Prescription drugs such as ketoprofen and higher strength naproxen may be used to treat severe tension headache.
See Headache Treatment and Prevention on Pain-health.com
Prescription or OTC medications taken on a continual basis must be monitored by a doctor and dosages must be followed correctly to prevent side effects. Overuse of pain-relief medication can result in medication-overuse headaches in headache-prone people and can also reduce the effectiveness of preventive drugs.
How Is A Mixed Tension Migraine Diagnosed
There is no test for mixed tension migraine. Your doctor can form a diagnosis based on your symptoms and by ruling out other causes of your symptoms.
If youre experiencing symptoms of a mixed tension migraine, your doctor will begin by taking your health history. Theyll ask you about your symptoms, including where you feel the pain, what the pain feels like, and how often the headaches occur.
Your doctor will also ask you about your familys history with headaches. This is because migraines may have a genetic link. Most people who experience migraines have a family member who also experiences migraines.
Your doctor may perform a neurological exam to rule out neuropathy and neurological disorders that can cause similar symptoms. During this exam, your doctor will test your reflexes and muscle tone. Theyll also test your response to different kinds of stimuli like light touch, temperature, and vibration. The results will tell your doctor if your nervous system is functioning normally.
Your doctor may order a CT scan or MRI scan of your head and neck. These tests will provide your doctor with an image of your brain and brain stem to see if your symptoms are being caused by a problem in your brain.
Your doctor may also order blood work to determine if underlying conditions are causing your headaches.
Treatment options for mixed tension migraine can include treatments for both tension headaches and migraines. The treatment will depend on your symptoms.
You May Like: How Long Do Hemiplegic Migraines Last
Medicine To Prevent Recurring Tension Headaches
If you get tension headaches on 15 days or more a month , your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent current headaches:
- NSAIDs daily use of NSAIDs such as naproxen can be tried. This practice can increase the risk of medicine overuse headache but it can be helpful in breaking the cycle of recurring headaches. If the 3-week NSAID course does not break the cycle of symptoms it should not be repeated.
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline can also be tried. They are usually taken 12 hours before bedtime. Your doctor will start you on a low dose, and increase the dose slowly if necessary. If your symptoms have improved for 36 months, then the TCA will be stopped slowly.
When To Call A Doctor
911 or other emergency services if:
- You have symptoms of a stroke, such as:
- Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
- Sudden problems with walking or balance.
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
- You have a fever and a stiff neck.
- You have new nausea and vomiting, or you cannot keep food or liquids down.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your headache wakes you up at night.
- Your headaches get worse or happen more often.
- You start to have new symptoms.
- You have any problems with your medicine.
- Your headaches occur after physical exercise, sexual activity, coughing, or sneezing.
- Your life is disrupted by your headaches .
You May Like: Does Tylenol Make A Migraine Medicine
When To Call 911
Get emergency help in the following cases:
- Your headache is more painful and extensive than any in the past.
- The onset of the headache is much more rapid than usual.
- Youre experiencing problems speaking and having sudden vision problems.
- You have numbness, weakness, or issues with movement and/or balance.
In addition, the following cases may not constitute an emergency but warrant a call to the doctor:
- The general pattern of your headaches has changed.
- Treatments and/or medications are no longer effective.
- Your medications are causing side effects.
- Youve started taking birth control.
- You need pain medications three or more days a week.
- Your head pain gets worse when you lie down.
What Type Of Headache Do You Have
Headaches are familiar to nearly everyone: in any given year, almost 90% of men and 95% of women have at least one. In the vast majority of cases, however, the pain isnt an omen of some terrible disease. The three most common types of headaches are tension, sinus, and migraine. The most common headache triggers are stress, fatigue, lack of sleep, hunger, and caffeine withdrawal.
Read Also: Do Migraines Make You Sleepy
How Does A Tension
People experience tension headache symptoms differently. Some people describe tension headache pain as feeling like someone is squeezing both sides of their head together or a band around their head.
You may have pain thats:
- Constant .
- Mild or moderate .
- On both sides of the head.
- Better after you take over-the-counter pain relievers.
Treatment Options For Tension
Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol are commonly used to treat tension-type headache. It shouldnt be necessary to take stronger medications.
Its important to discuss use of any drugs with your doctor if you are pregnant. Using painkillers more than twice a week can increase the risk of tension-type developing into chronic daily headache, and you should also speak to your doctor if you are regularly getting headaches.
As stress is a cause of tension-type headache, you may find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, avoid stressful situations as much as possible, and consider speaking to a counsellor or therapist.
Don’t Miss: Migraine Headaches Medication List
What Are The Symptoms Of Sinus Headaches
Patients with migraines or tension headaches commonly have sinus and nasal symptoms during their headaches, including sinus pressure, sinus pain, nasal congestion or runny nose. Studies of patients who have self-diagnosed or been diagnosed with sinus headaches were found to have migraines or tension headaches in more than 80 percent of cases only three to five percent of these patients had sinusitis.
Symptoms of sinusitis and migraine headaches can be similar, which can be confusing about what is causing sinus pain and pressure. Migraines and headaches can cause the following nasal symptoms:
- Pain and pressure around the eyes, across the cheeks, and the forehead
- Nasal congestion
- Eye redness, tearing, or eyelid swelling
- Symptoms on one or both sides of the face
Sinusitis is associated with nasal congestion or obstruction and a thick nasal discharge, sometimes with facial pain, pressure, or a feeling of fullness. However, facial pain or pressure or fullness without cloudy or colored nasal discharge is most likely not a sinus infection.
You May Like: How To Relieve Severe Sinus Pain
What Causes Muscle Knots
Muscle knots often develop as a result of a muscle being overused or unable to relax and forced to hold tension for a long time. Imagine holding a child in your arms for a few hours, or your arms out in front of you typing or driving. Once that muscle stays contracted for too long, part or all of the muscle simply decides: Okay, I guess I’m supposed to stay contracted. .
Don’t Miss: A Lot Of Headaches During Pregnancy
What Are Some Triggers That May Bring On Tension
You may be more likely to have tension headaches if you have:
- Eye strain, such as from staring at a computer screen for a long time.
- Pain in other parts of your head and neck caused by problems such as temporomandibular disorders.
- Problems sleeping, such as insomnia.
- Stress related to family, work or life challenges, such as starting or losing a job or juggling too many commitments.
Food Intolerance And Other Digestive Issues
Headaches are also very commonly caused by gut issues related to food intolerance or sensitivity, Dr. Chen says. We especially focus on food triggers as possible causes of headaches, particularly foods like gluten, dairy, and eggs.
We know from embryology that the same cells that form our gut migrate to form our nervous system, Dr. Chen explains. So the mind-gut connection and gut-mind connection are huge. Your brain can sense physical signals down to your gut neurons, causing them to turn on. Likewise, digestive symptoms can send signals to your brain that cause headaches.
Often, an elimination diet can reveal underlying sensitivities and intolerances. It may also be worth boosting gut health by taking a proven probiotic supplement and/or eating fermented and prebiotic-rich foods.
Read Also: How To Wean Off Nortriptyline
What Causes A Tension Headache
The exact mechanism that causes a tension headache is not known. Several factors, such as genetics and environment, are thought to be involved. Muscle contractions in the head and neck are considered a major factor in the development of a tension headache. Some people get tension headaches in response to stressful events or hectic days.
Treating The Cause: Diary
It may help to keep a diary if you have frequent headaches. Note when, where, and how bad each headache is, and how long each headache lasts. Also note anything that may have caused it. A pattern may emerge and you may find a trigger to avoid. For example, hunger, eye strain, bad posture, stress, anger, etc.
Some doctors suggest reviewing your diet. The list of foods which can be triggers in some people includes caffeinated drinks, chocolate, cheese and alcohol. Other doctors suggest focusing on a healthy balanced diet, with a good mixture of slow-release energy foods and a low intake of refined sugars.
Recommended Reading: Medications For Migraines List
What Does A Tension Headache Feel Like
With a tension headache, the pain starts in your neck and travels up your spine to the base of your skull, and then it wraps around your head. People who have tension headaches often say that the pain feels like a tight band around the head, like wearing a crown that is too tight. Tenderness on the neck, shoulders, and scalp is also quite common with tension headaches.
Do You Have Migraines
A migraine most often feels like a headache. But migraines are different from other headaches in a number of ways. For one thing, they often come with other symptoms, some of which can feel scary. They also tend to follow a pattern that is predictable.
Common symptoms of migraine are:
Throbbing pain on one side of the head
Nausea, vomiting, or both
A visual experience that looks like sparkling lights
Sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, and smells
Its important to talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have migraines. The symptoms that come with migraines can be similar to the symptoms of a stroke or other serious condition.
If youve ever had a migraine, or if you know someone who has, you might have wondered what got it started in the first place. You probably also want to know if theres anything you can do to stop triggering one in the future. If youre interested in finding out more about what makes migraines happen, this guide is for you.
You May Like: Ibuprofen Headache Dosage
Tension Headaches Vs Migraines
How do you tell them apart?
- What do they feel like? Steady, mild to moderate pain that doesnât throb. It can ease or get worse over the course of the headache.
- Where do they hurt? It can hurt all over your head, but youâll most likely feel a band of pain around your forehead or the back of your head or around your neck. The headache does not get worse with activity. Your jaw, shoulders, neck, and head may also be tender.
- Are there any other symptoms? This type of headache doesnât come with the nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or aura that people with migraines have.
- Do you notice symptoms before the headache starts? You might feel stress or tension.
- Who gets them? Mostly adults.
- How often do you get them? It varies.
- How long do they last? Thirty minutes to 7 days.
How Can I Prevent Tension Headaches
Researchers have yet to uncover how to prevent all headaches. If you experience chronic tension-type headaches or frequent tension-type headaches certain medications may stop some headaches before they start. These are antidepressants such as amitriptyline or venlafaxine or duloxetine. These work on the pain centers in the brain.
Overall, lifestyle changes and reducing your response to stress is the best way to prevent tension headaches. The most effective stress management tool is the one that fits into your life and you feel good using. You may want to try:
- Massage therapy.
You May Like: Can You Take Ibuprofen And Excedrin Migraine
Medicine Treatment Of Tension Headaches
A qualified physician must choose the most appropriate treatment method for tension headaches, which is not difficult. Methods like stress management counseling and relaxation therapies can effectively treat some individuals without the use of drugs. Some individuals with tension headaches benefit from analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications, and antidepressants.
Tension headaches can be treated with medication. The use of medications must be monitored for signs of overuse, which could cause episodic tension-type headaches to become chronic headaches.
Drugs used to treat tension-type headaches are anti-inflammatories like Celebrex, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories Naproxen and Ibuprofen, Analgesics such as Fiorinal and Tylenol with Codeine, mild analgesics like Acetaminophen and Aspirin and stress reducers Tranxene, Buspar, and Xanax.
Are Sinus Headaches And Migraines Related
So, do sinus and breathing problemscause migraines? Probably not, but it seems these conditions could be related somehow. If you want relief, youll need the right diagnosis and, if you have more than one condition, to consider treatment for each separately, even when theyre happening at the same time.
Recommended Reading: Piercing That Helps Prevent Migraines