Muscle tension headaches are by far the most common form of nonserious headache. Pain results from muscle tension and spasms originating in the muscles of the neck that often “radiate” pain to the head.
Muscle tension headaches are common in certain occupations (i.e. typing, programming and assembly line work) due to the “day long” forward cant of the head and neck, or the tedious posture associated with these professions.
Common symptoms include a headache often described as “band-like” or bitemporal. The pain is usually constant and not throbbing. The neck is usually stiff and movement in ALL directions is painful, not just neck flexion (chin on chest), as is commonly seen in cases of meningitis.
Evaluation will include careful history to exclude the possibility of recent head injury, or recurrent headaches (migraine).
Treatment is with aspirin, paracetamol, anti-inflammatory agents (ibuprofen), or chiropractic manual manipulation (for subluxations). Due to the common finding of muscle spasm in muscle tension headache, relief is occasionally provided by the use of a muscle relaxant. Acupuncture is a recognized alternative treatment. Wet, warm compresses and gentle massage can be quite therapeutic.