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What is tension headache?


Tension-type headache (HST) is the most common headache. Often the cause can be due to tense muscles in the neck and / or jaws. Studies have shown that tension headaches can also occur without muscle impact in the neck and jaws. What then lies behind, there currently seems to be no concrete conclusions about.

The underlying causes of tension headaches can be several. Periods that are mentally stressful, for example with stress, anxiety, fatigue, prolonged activity that requires high focus, can trigger tension headaches. It is common for these patients to have problems with sleep and experience that it is a contributing cause of onset of headache.


Poor posture leads to increased tension in the neck muscles. A head weighs 4-5 kg. If the head does not rest centered on top of the neck, but a little in front, then the neck muscles must work harder to hold the head up. As the neck muscles become more and more overworked, the risk of tension headaches increases.

Sitting at a computer most of the day increases the risk of tension-induced headaches. The body is made for movement. Sitting still for many hours a day places great demands on ergonomics in the workplace. Too high or too low screen, too high or too low desk, not optimal vision for screen work, each and every one of them together, can cause tension-type headaches. Even if you have optimal ergonomics at work, everything sedentary in itself can trigger these problems. Women are affected more often than men.

Symptoms of tension headache


The headaches are usually described as dull, oppressive and sometimes as tension-like around the head. Common areas are forehead, temples, and / or behind the eyes. Both sides are usually affected at the same time. The intensity is described as mild to moderate. If the pain is of a stabbing or cutting nature, it is probably not a tension headache. It is common for the pain to start or increase during the day. Lighter physical activity can relieve symptoms.


Treatment for tension headaches


When we meet the patient, we inquire about the state of stress and sleep. We provide ergonomics tips and sometimes recommend that an ergonomist review the design of the workplace. In our clinical examination, posture, movement patterns and muscular influence are reviewed.

A common approach for these patients is manual treatment of, among other things, the neck / shoulders. This is done in combination with  exercise rehabilitation  and any posture-correcting tips. The patient is given the task of trying to overcome any findings regarding stress or ergonomics.


If we succeed in pointing out what is the underlying cause of the tension headache, the probability increases that we will be successful with the treatment. The manual treatment gives a push forward towards improvement, but without a holistic approach the improvement will not be lasting. We notice on a couple, three treatments whether the purely manual in the treatment works or not.

Physiotherapy at Alta Vita Physiotherapy

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