Millions of British peoples suffer from tension headaches. One of the most common disorders in neurological practice is the
tension headache. Most people might experience one or two tension headaches each month, or even more at times of stress.
Unlike other headaches (including migraine), patients with tension headache are usually able to continue with normal activities
despite having a constant throbbing headache. However, they are normally well between headache attacks.
Thorough clinical investigations are not usually necessary unless patients present with unusual signs and symptoms, or
something other than tension headache is suspected. Being such a common disorder, tension headache is responsible for
the loss of more working hours than most major neurological and neurosurgical disorders for which curative treatment is
available. From the point of view of conventional medicine, tension headache is a relatively neglected subject, largely because
it does not cause death or permanent disability.
Many factors may be involved in initiating tension headache and can play a major role in the severity and frequency of the
* Muscle over-activity in certain regions such as the scalp, forehead and neck can trigger tension headache and create a dull
ache or tightness in these areas, often experienced as a tight band around the head or a heavy weight on top of the head.
* Psycho-physical tensions or stresses, for example excessive anxiety, excitement, depression, physical tiredness, anger
* Physical injuries such as spinal and head injuries.
* Dietary factors. Certain types of food may precipitate tension headache attacks because they contain chemical substances
such as 5-hydroxytryptamine (in bananas, tomatoes and pineapples), histamine (in cheese and red wine),
betaphenylethylamine (in chocolate), tyramine (in pickled herrings, cheese and marmite), sodium nitrite (in bacon, salami
and hot dogs) and octopamine (in citrus fruits).
* Fatigue and ill health: Over-exertion, exhaustion, overwork and failure to relax physically and/or mentally may trigger a
tension headache attack. Lack of sleep is also very likely to provoke a headache reaction in predisposed patients.
* The menstrual cycle and hormonal factors.
* Drugs: Besides alcohol (especially red wine), a number of anti-depressant drugs may give rise to tension headaches and
Finally, the recent research trial on using acupuncture in tension headaches management suggests that acupuncture is an
migraines in certain patients. For example reserpine, which is used to control hypertension, may provoke not only tension
headache and migraine but other reactions such as shock, depression, stupor and narcolepsy. Similarly, one of the side
effects of amphetamine is tension headache if it is used at a high dose or for prolonged periods at normal dosage. The use
and abuse of amphetamines must therefore be noted.
* Other factors: Changes in the environment, such as climatic changes (extreme heat or cold, dusty or smoky atmospheres
and high humidity) as well as high noise levels, high pitched sounds, intense odours and strong or poor light, may initiate
an attack of tension headache. Patients with tension headache have a strong response to thermal stimuli and tend to get
attacks in association with hot weather or fever.
Clinical scientific research has shown that acupuncture is more effective than Western medications in reducing the severity
and frequency ofthis problem. The signs and symptoms of tension headache may have a severe impact daily on life of every
patient. It is widely accepted that acupuncture can offer a powerful relief for migraine and/or without the side effects that
and safe treatment for tension headache. It can offer a new avenue of study for neurologists, neurophysiologists and
and lead the way to a better and more profound understanding of, and eventually to a better medical
of human pain. Read more...