Migraine Triggers: Tension-Type Headaches
Do you ever have a headache that “turns into a Migraine?” If so, it may be a tension-type headache. Tension-type headaches can be a Migraine trigger for some people.
Tension-type headaches (TTH) commonly last from 30 minutes to seven days. The pain of TTH is often described as “vise-like” or “a band around the head.”
A TTH has at least two of these four characteristics:
- mild to moderate in intensity
- occurs on both sides of the head (bilateral)
- is not made worse by routine activity such as bending over or climbing stairs
- the pain has a pressing or tightening quality, not throbbing or pulsing
For many, stopping a TTH early can keep it from triggering a Migraine attack. Acute treatment options for TTH include:
- aspirin (for adults)
- aspirin/acetaminophen/caffeine combinations
- muscle relaxants
- combination prescription medications with codeine, hydrocodone, butalbital, caffeine, etc.
- massage therapy
- relaxation exercises
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) (should never be applied to the face or head)
Migraine abortive medications do not relieve TTH.
My personal experience is that tension-type headaches most often do trigger a Migraine for me unless I stop them quickly. I frequently feel them first in the bottom of the back of my head. Ibuprofen usually works for them, but because of other medications I take, I shouldn’t take ibuprofen. I have found that a TENS unit applied to my shoulders and lower neck is as effective as medication for stopping a TTH if I use it early in the headache.
If you have headaches that “turn into Migraines,” it’s worth discussing them with your doctor. It may turn out that they’re tension-type headaches, and you can discuss ways to stop them quickly before they trigger a Migraine.
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?