Tension headaches

Posted June, 2008

Probably the class of headaches familiar to most people, there are techniques we can employ to relieve the pain they cause. Of course many folks will get help by using things such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. If you've been unable to find relief using over-the-counter drugs, then you may need a more detailed examination of what's causing your headaches. Don't take chronic headaches lightly. They may represent a symptom of a more serious disease. See your primary care doctor.

Physicians use the term "idiopathic." It simply means "we don't know what causes it." Some tension headaches have "idiopathic components." Even some headaches wrongly called Migraines fall into this slot. Assuming your primary care physician has discussed your headaches and has ruled out serious causes such as vascular disease, tumors, and so forth, you then attempt to treat the pain, because what's triggering the headache may not be easy to discover.

Pain Management can help most people who suffer from chronic "tension headaches."

Muscle-triggered headaches

There are several very common "tension" headaches. These are usually caused by muscle spasms on the back of the head (called the occipital region) and at the top of the neck. Sometimes there's other regions such as the brow that can bring on these headaches.

No matter the location of the muscle causing it, it's the constant pressure of the contracted muscles (usually caused by emotional or other stresses) that irritates certain nerve pathways. A "feedback loop" appears where the pain aggravates the muscle tension (we usually "tighten up" when we experience discomfort) and the tight muscles aggravate the nervous irritation...and the circle of pain continues until something breaks it.

If you get these types of headaches, Dr. Robb can inject small amounts of local anesthetic into the offending muscle or region, which should temporarily block the cycle of muscle-tension-nerve-irritation-emotional-aggravation-muscle tension. This is such a safe, simple procedure that the doctor can perform it in the office, and usually you can return to your normal schedule within a few moments, and minus the headache.

Cervically-triggered headaches

Another headache type we frequently see is caused by cervical (neck) pain. This problem, which originates in the structure of the bones in the neck, can result in chronically-pinched nerve pathways. Nerve impingement can then cause viciously intense and even "blinding" headaches. If this difficulty is the cause of your headaches, after determining this, Dr. Robb can apply certain precise nerve blocks that should "shut off" the nerves causing the headaches.

Dampening or eliminating their pain signals can break the cycle of such headaches and provide relief.

In very severe cases of cervically-triggered headaches, we can use special equipment that employs radio waves to "disable" the triggering nervous tissue. This procedure usually creates long-term relief and it can be repeated if required should the difficulty return after the nervous tissue has regenerated.

!!If you have headaches that do not feel like your usual "tension" headaches, or they're accompanied by changes in your vision, hearing, balance, or any other sense, you should contact your general physician immediately.