Tension Headaches

By Matt Rowe,
QubeCore Sports & Rehab Physiotherapist

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and the one we see most often in our clinic. In most cases, they are mild to moderate in severity and occur infrequently. However, there are many people out there who suffer from severe tension headaches. Some of these individuals experience these issues multiple times a week, significantly impacting their quality of life.

While symptoms vary from person to person, here are the most common complaints:
• Constant dull pain or pressure on both sides of the head (described as more of a steady ache instead of an intense throbbing pain)
• Pain or pressure usually appearing along the forehead and temples, and often extending to the back of the head, neck, and shoulders
• More severe tension headaches may feel like one’s head is being squeezed in a vise
• Typically, are not associated with nausea, vomiting, or light sensitivity
• Can be uncomfortable and tiresome, but tension headaches typically do not interrupt one’s sleep

Causes may differ from other headache types such as migraine, cluster, or sinus headaches. These factors pertain specifically to the most common type of headache being tension headaches:
• Stress far exceeds other tension headache sources
• Postural strain (especially predominate during periods of prolonged sitting or standing)
• Ongoing muscle tension developing in the head, neck, facial, and/or shoulders
• Anxiety leading to an overactive sympathetic nervous system (multiple fight or flight responses daily) and presenting as increased muscle tension

Massage Therapy
• Acupuncture
• Physiotherapy and Dry Needling/Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)
• Chiropractic
• Kinesiology

• Foam rolling
• Massage or lacrosse ball self-release
• Postural awareness
• Strengthening and stretching
• Meditation
• Yoga
• Regular exercise: walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.
• Gym or home workouts

Ultimately, all of the signs point to stress management being the key to long-term prevention of tension headaches. However, when we have tightened up so much over the days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, we may need help from a professional. Your practitioner can help by releasing this muscle tension, working on mobility, postural cueing, strengthening, and providing direction on how you can better self-manage moving forward.

Even after you are symptom-free, adding in a monthly or quarterly treatment, whether that be massage, physio, chiro, etc., can be very helpful. This is not to encourage dependency by any means. Often, we don’t even realize how much tension we are developing until we have a practitioner assessing several of those tight spots. These treatments can help hit the reset button and get you back on track with self-management.

If you are suffering from ongoing tension headaches, consider booking in with one of our amazing practitioners here at QubeCore Sports & Rehab. We’ll help you get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Take care and thanks for reading.

QubeCore Sports & Rehab offers Physiotherapy in North Vancouver for a wide range of injuries and conditions. To book your appointment with Matt Rowe, call 604.210.2274 or simply Book online.