Believe it or not, it seems (according to research by (Silberstein, 1998) around 86% of women and 63% of men suffer from tension headaches.
The word "tension" in headaches doesn't refer to emotional tense-ness; it actually refers to muscle tension.
Tension headaches are caused by overly tight muscles in the back of the neck, top of the shoulders, or even the very top of the back.
(Of course, if you're emotionally tense, then you might be keeping yourself hunched, with the muscles tense, so I guess it might amount to the same thing.)
The back of the skull is called the occipital bone, and the bumpy bit at the bottom (feel round the back of your head for the "bump") is the occiput.
The tense muscles that can cause tension headaches generally attach here at the occiput.
The specific muscles that cause tension headaches are:
But actually, the picture's a bit more complex than that because there's another culprit which attaches very close by and has a significant impact on the positioning of skull:
So how do these muscles become tense?
There are a couple of main causes of tension headaches:
Other factors can play a part too (like chronic repetitive movement of certain muscles in sport or work, or prior back or neck injuries)... but posture and stress are the main criminals.
I need to say here, that tension headaches are only 1 class of headaches. If you have headaches that are caused by tense muscles in your neck, shoulder & upper back then the suggestions below apply.
On the other hand, if you're not certain that your headaches are caused by muscle tension, go get checked out by a doc first.
The trite answer to the question How do I treat tension headaches? is to say that if the 2 main causes are stress and poor posture, the way to fix the symptoms is to de-stress and stand up straight!
Of course, life ain't that easy (especially on the stress front) so here are some alternatives:
As ever, if you think I can help. Give me a call.