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Tension or a Migraine? Here's How to Tell

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 29.5 million Americans experience migraines. But, did you know that tension headaches are more common than migraines at a frequency of 5-to-1? Knowing the difference between the two is important for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The Lowdown on Tension Headaches

Tension headaches typically result in a steady ache and tightness located in the neck, particularly at the base of the skull. This ache and tightness can irritate the nerves in the head, radiating pain. At times, the pain can reach the eyes but often stops at the top of the head. Common triggers include stress, muscle strain or anxiety.

Identifying Migraines

Migraines are often much more intense, severe and sometimes incapacitating. They are usually on one side of the head and are associated with nausea and vomiting.

An “aura,” or a pre-headache warning, often comes with symptoms such as a bright flashing light, ringing or noise in the ears, a visual floater or other indicators. For migraine headaches there is often a strong family history, which indicates genetics may play a role.

Certain things can trigger a migraine including:

  • caffeine
  • chocolate
  • citrus fruits
  • cured meats
  • dehydration
  • depression
  • dried fish
  • dried fruit
  • excessive exercise
  • eyestrain
  • food additives (nitrites, nitrates, MSG)
  • lights (bright, flickering, glare)
  • menstruation
  • wine or alcohol
  • weather

Posture and your dental bite are also very important considerations. A forward head carriage is not only related to headaches, but also neck and back pain. The average head weighs 12 pounds. As the head shifts forward each inch adds an extra ten pounds of load on the neck and upper back muscles to keep the head upright. Furthermore, if the bite forces in the mouth are misaligned, teeth grinding and clenching may cause migraines as well.

Treatment for Migraines and Headaches Related to Teeth Clenching

If you are ready to take a step towards being pain free, or simply want to learn more about how our pain management therapy works at Pasadena Pain Management, contact us today to set up a FREE consultation.