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)
  • acetaminophen
  • ibuprofen
  • aspirin/acetaminophen/caffeine combinations
  • muscle relaxants
  • combination prescription medications with codeine, hydrocodone, butalbital, caffeine, etc.
  • massage therapy
  • biofeedback
  • acupuncture
  • 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References

Comments

View Comments (14)

Poll