Tension-type headache / muscle tension headache
Approximately half of the world's population will suffer a muscle tension headache at least once in their lives. Tension-type headache is the most common form of headache. Approximately 48 percent of all headaches can be attributed to muscle tension headache.
Other forms of headache include migraine, medication-induced headache, cluster headache and cervicogenic headache.
Description of condition
A distinction is made between chronic tension headaches and episodic tension headaches. The chronic form causes headache on at least 15 days per month for at least six months.
The episodic form results in tension headaches on a maximum of 15 days per month, with a minimum of 1 day per month.
Cause and history
We suspect that increased muscle tension in the muscles of the neck causes the headache. These muscles are located at the back of the neck.
Signs & symptoms
The pain is present continuously and may feel like a tight band around the head. The pain is located on both sides of the head and is not present on only one side. The headache may radiate to the forehead.
Different types of headaches can sometimes feel very similar. To find out if you have tension headaches, your primary care physician or physiotherapist may ask you to keep a headache diary.
In a headache diary you will record how often you have a headache, where the headache is located, the time of occurrence, any additional symptoms and the measures you take to reduce the headache. This helps differentiate the type of headache.
In addition, it is important to rule out other causes such as problems with the neck, teeth, infections of nasal cavities or headaches due to trauma.
Treatment consists of postural instructions, muscle strengthening exercises and mobilization techniques for the neck.
You can check your symptoms using the online physiotherapy check or make an appointment with a physiotherapy practice in your locality.
Dekker, F., Duijn, N.P. van, Ongering, J.E.P., Bartelink, M.E.L., Boelman, L., Burgers, J.S., Bouma, M., Kurver, M.J. (2014). NHG-standaard. Hoofdpijn. Derde herziening. Huisarts Wet 2014;57(1):20-31.
Nugteren, K. van & Winkel, D. (2012). Onderzoek en behandeling van de nek. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.