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Tension Headache (cont.)

Tension Headache Causes

  • Many people associate the onset of tension-type headache with stress or upsetting emotional situations. However, these factors have not been shown to lead to muscle contraction or reduced blood flow. Although people may have tenderness of the muscles surrounding the head, tension-type headache is not the result of sustained muscle contraction.
  • The most compelling and current evidence points to a central nervous system dysfunction as the underlying cause of tension-type headaches. Thus, the muscle ache of tension-type headache is thought to be a result of increased sensitivity of the nervous system and pain from occasional or long-term imbalances in brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, enkephalins).
    • Studies show that some people with primary headache disorders respond to medications that specifically target and influence serotonin. These are mostly people who have migraine or cluster headaches. Most of those who do not have migraine or cluster headaches do not respond to serotonin-targeted drugs.
    • People with chronic tension-type headache may also have imbalances in neurochemicals. In fact, depression may be an underlying cause in some people with chronic tension headaches. Depression and some sleep disorders are linked to serotonin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/20/2014
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