Tension Headaches

Paul Bacho's Chronic Headache FAQ

Question 1: What causes my chronic headaches?

Answer: Your chronic headaches are caused by muscles in your head and neck that tighten up so much, they spasm. And that tightness and those spasms press on nerve endings, causing headaches.

Question 2: How come I get a headache every day around 2 or 3 p.m.?

Answer: This happens because the muscles get tired, which causes them to fatigue and spasm. Essentially, the muscles in your neck get tired from holding up your head, which you most likely have positioned improperly due to poor posture. By the time mid-afternoon rolls around, fatigue sets in and you get a headache.

Question 3: I go to bed feeling fine, but I get up in the morning with a headache. What gives?

Answer: You need to change to a different pillow and/or sleeping position. You're putting your neck in the "wrong" position, and as a result it gets spasmed and tight...hence your morning headaches.

Question 4: I get a terrible headache that seems to start at the base of my skull, but my doctor can't find anything wrong. Can you tell if there's anything actually wrong or am I just imagining this?

Answer:There are muscles at the base of your skull that will tighten up and push down on nerve endings, causing your headaches. A lot of doctors have not been trained to distinguish tight muscles from normal muscles. A normal muscle should be loose and move easily under slight fingertip pressure. A tight, spasmed muscle will feel hard and unyielding.

Question 5: I have a lot of weird symptoms with my headaches, like ringing in my ears, pain in my back teeth, and sometimes pain over one or both of my eyes. Sometimes there's pain on just one side of my head. Nothing is consistent...except my headaches. Answer : There are a lot of nerve endings around your head and neck area. Depending on which neck muscles tighten up, your symptoms might seem weird and not at all related.

Question 6: Will sitting up straight really make my headaches go away?

Answer: Well, in most cases, a tension headache is caused by poor posture. Sitting up straight will definitely make you feel better and get rid of some of the pain, but probably not all of it. Permanently correcting your posture will make your headaches go away for good.

Question 7: Sometimes my arms and/or hands will tingle when my neck and shoulders tighten up. And sometimes this happens when I get a bad headache. Is all this related somehow?

Answer: Yes, it's all related. The bundle of nerves that exit the neck and go down your arms to innervate the arms and hands pass between some neck muscles. They go underneath the collar bone, into the arm pit and then down the arm. Tight, spasmed muscles anywhere around the nerves will irritate them and cause tingling in the upper extremities.

Question 8: I get a bad migraine headache that seems to start in the back of my head and comes up over the top and across my forehead. Could these headaches be tension related?

Answer: Definitely. Migraine headaches are diagnosed on the type and severity of the symptoms they cause. There is no objective test, nor is there any one cause for migraine headaches. Tight muscles can put enough pressure on the nerve endings to cause migraine symptoms.

Question 9: If I get a really bad headache, lying down with a heating pad around my neck seems to help for awhile, but then my headache comes back. Should I be using more heat?

Answer: Tight muscles squeeze down on the blood vessels that feed them. Using heat relaxes the muscles by increasing blood flow. Lying down also relaxes the muscles because they no longer have to work to hold up your head. When you take the heat away, then sit or stand up again, blood flow gradually decreases so the muscles tighten back up. Continue to use as much heat as you can stand. In my opinion, you can't overuse heat, and taking frequent breaks definitely makes a difference.


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