How do tension-type headaches develop?

How do tension-type headaches develop?

How do tension-type headaches develop?

Tension-type headaches are primary headaches.

That’s good news! This means no other disease is the reason for the headaches. That being said, it is not always easy to find out what causes tension-type headaches, because it is different for every person.

There are several factors that each can play a role in the development of tension-type headaches!

One important factor in the development of tension-type headaches is biological predisposition – in other words, your genes. Some young people are prone to (or likely to get) headaches. For them, adding just a few other factors will likely lead tension-type headaches to develop. Other young people are not prone to getting headaches at all. Even if they have a bunch of factors going on, they still may not get tension-type headaches.

Your thoughts, feelings, your relationships, and what’s going on around you can also play an important role. When you feel stressed, worried, afraid, or even sad and irritable, as you might if you are having problems with friends, family, or school, tension-type headaches are more likely to develop.

How are tension-type headaches related to stress?

Stressful situations and the unpleasant feelings that go with them (such as worry, frustration, fear, anger) trigger what we call the “fight or flight response”.

What is the "fight or flight response”?
Steinzeit-Ei wird bedroht
A long time ago…

In the Stone Age, if our ancestors suddenly encountered a saber-toothed tiger while picking berries, they would have had to be on high alert to save their lives. A saber-toothed tiger was a deadly threat to humans.

The possibilities to get out of this situation alive were to fight the tiger or to flee, by running away fast or climbing a tree. Each of these options required a lot of strength, quick thinking, and alertness.

So, with practice, our ancestors’ bodies learned to release special hormones super fast whenever they were in life-threatening situations, like the tiger. These hormones cause the muscles to become tense, so they could fight or flee in the best way possible.

After the human escaped the life-threatening situation (like a saber-toothed tiger), their muscles could relax again.

How does the “fight or flight response” work today?
Ei wird angeschrien

When you get into a stressful situation, your body does exactly the same thing as the bodies of our ancestors: It engages the “fight or flight response” because our bodies see stress as a threat.

BUT, a few things are quite different today. Most things that stress us out are not life-threatening. So, you don’t have to fight your teacher or run away from a class assignment. Yet, your body still automatically becomes tense to get you ready for action, and this tension does not go away right away.

In this situation, you experience stressors in the environment (like the tiger!) and in your body (like pain) very intensely. You then perceive tension in your neck or forehead as a headache. When you are relaxed or not really paying attention to your body, you probably wouldn’t even notice this muscle tension.

How can I shut off the "fight or flight response”?
Ei bleibt cool

You can’t shut the response off, because we NEED it for true danger… But you can try to trick it!

There are two things you can do:

  1. Reduce stressful situations
  2. Relieve muscle tension

Click the link below the rocket ship balloon to learn what to do when you have a tension-type headache.

On the following page you will learn what to do when you have a nasty tension-type headache.

What can you do to relieve tension-type headaches?

Tension-type headache

Click here for more information on how to relieve tension-type headaches.

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Click here to go back to the main page describing tension-type headaches.

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