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by Justin Wu, DPT

Ahhh, my head hurts, why? [1]        headache                                        

Tension headaches are very common ailment that many people suffer from. What exactly is a tension headache you may ask? A tension headache occurs when neck and scalp muscles become tense or contract. The contraction can be response to stress, depression, anxiety, or from studying way too much (looking down at the books). For example, activities which hold the head for prolonged positions may cause these types of headaches.

What are some signs and symptoms of tension headaches?

Just like a normal headache, the signs and symptoms are the same! A dull, pressure-like throb in the head which is usually associated with a tender (trigger point) spot in the neck, shoulder, or the musculature surrounding the cervical spine is usually indicative of a tension headache.

Keeping it in check, how?

Find that tender spot / trigger point! Look for knots around the neck and press into it. Trigger points are usually these “knots” which feel like hard balls located in your musculature. Just like a fist, it can’t hold it strong and forever, so if you press into it long and hard enough (yes it will hurt for the first 10-15 seconds) that fist should relax into a open palm. Fists tire out believe it or not!

How do I keep tension headaches away?

Posture and proper muscle flexibility! With this in mind, forward head posture is definitely a contributor to tension headaches. Here’s an example:

tension headache

On the right is forward head posture, fix it by maintaining your posture and keeping your head and spine in proper position and alignment like the individual to the left. Posture is very hard to correct because it is also a question of habit, but try your best and the frequency of your tension headaches might just dissipate!

[1] Pubmed Health, Tension Headache, A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia, November 2, 2012Dr. Wu is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine

Dr. Wu is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine