Tension Headache Symptoms as Compared to Migraine

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By Tess Thompson

The definition and severity of tension headaches differs among individuals, and most of them have a different story to tell. Tension headaches may also vary with every episode, but over time, people are normally able to give some sort of description about the nature of the pain that they experience. Migraines, on the other hand, are a severe recurring vascular pain, often referred to as ‘sick headache’.

A tension headache is a dull physical pain, mostly as tenseness, in the forehead or sides and back of the head. The initial reaction of the afflicted individual is to press the areas where the tightness is being felt. Most people equate it with a feeling as if the head has been pressed in a vice. Some feel it is more like the pressure of a tight band tied on the head. In its most severe form, it feels as if a hooded cape is covering the head and draping down to the shoulders. Tension headaches cause some amount of discomfort in the neck or jaw as well, and may cause a clicking sound on opening the jaw.

Other symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sore scalp, neck and shoulders muscles.
  • Difficulty in concentrating on work.
  • Petulance or irritability.
  • Appetite loss.

Tension headaches mostly start after waking up in the morning. However, in other cases, tension headaches do occur in the afternoon, usually due to stress caused by working long hours.

These tension headaches are differentiated from migraines by the absence of visual disturbances like blind spots or flashing lights, a hallmark of migraines. There are other differences between migraines and tension headaches, as well. Tension headaches do not produce symptoms like slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and numbness on one side of the body. Tension headaches, unlike migraines, are almost always bilateral - that is, the pain is on both sides of the head. People with tension headaches normally do not report sensitivity to light and sound.

Another significant difference between the two is that physical activity aggravates migraines, whereas it does not make any significant difference to tension headaches.

Tension headaches are a mild, insignificant biological condition, whereas migraines are a vascular disease. It should be noted, however, that tension headaches may be severe enough at times, and an intense episode or a chronic condition may not let you concentrate on work. Unless caused by an underlying disease, a rare occurrence, headaches are easily managed with stress relief measures depending upon on the type you experience. Appropriate medication and techniques adopted for coping with stress, a major cause of tension headaches, is elemental to treatment. Treatment of migraines, of course, often requires more advanced treatment.



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