"Tension" Type Headaches
Tension type headaches are the commonest headache of all. TTH’s affect most of the population at some time. If a headache lasts greater than four hours, resolves slowly and has a frequency of less than 15 days of the month then it is likely to be a TTH. TTH is often known as the “featureless headache” because it is often vague in character and lacks any of the specific signs of the other common headache disorder i.e. migraine. It is often described as aching or pressure and has a band like distribution around the forehead. It is unlikely to interfere with activities of daily living.
TTH’s are rarely disabling and almost always respond to over-the –counter medication or tablets that can be bought in a local pharmacy. Pain killers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol are highly effective and can be safely taken together for maximal effect (as long as there are no allergies to these medications). Those occurring more frequently may be prevented by the use of tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline which can be prescribed by a GP.
It is important with all headaches, though, to be aware that very frequent use of painkillers for headache can itself lead to worsening of headache symptoms, known as analgesic overuse headache.
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Pain Service Website, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Webmaster Dr J G de Courcy, Consultant in Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia
Page updated 15/02/2016