In terms of symptoms, muscle tension headaches are the most common symptom associated with stress. Muscle tension headaches occur when muscles in the back of the neck and on the scalp tighten because of anxiety, inadequate sleep, hunger, poor posture and even some foods (i.e. caffeine, nuts, chocolate, cheese). Muscle tension headaches commonly lead to decreased concentration, inadequate sleep (also a cause), and irritability. It is estimated that up to 80% of the adult U.S. population suffer from muscle tension headaches and 3% suffer from chronic daily headaches.
Muscle tension headaches start at the neck or back of the head and moves forward resulting in mild pressure or like a tight band or vice around the head. Typically, the pain affects both sides of the head.
Women are twice as likely as men to develop tension headaches. People who report greater sensitivity to both stress and pain tend to report more tension headaches. Also, people who use passive/avoidant coping strategies report three times more tension headaches.
The most effective treatment strategies for treating tension headaches include:
* relaxation training
* cognitive-behavioral stress management
* ergonomic correction
Other effective techniques for alleviating tension headaches is applying moist heat (microwave a wet towel) to the neck and scalp while relaxing and performing neck exercises demonstrated on the link provided http://www.des.umd.edu/os/erg/neck.html.
Submitted by Holly O. Houston, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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