Tension headaches and migraines can be difficult to distinguish from one another, but it is possible to have both at the same time. This combination of tension and migraine headaches, formerly known as mixed headache syndrome, is now identified as migraine and coexisting tension headaches. Tension headaches are usually caused by stress, worry, or tiredness. They cause the muscles of the scalp, neck, and jaw to tighten, causing pain.
The pain of a migraine is extremely debilitating. It may sound a little strange, but a person may have another headache besides a migraine at the same time. Tension headache does not worsen with physical activity. It is not accompanied by vomiting and, if there is nausea, it is mild. A migraine attack may be accompanied by increased sensitivity to both light and sound; one or none accompanies the tension-type headache.
However, it is possible that a tension headache may trigger a migraine attack. People with chronic tension-type headaches may have symptoms that last for months at a time. Pain can stay at the same level of discomfort for days. Although rare, these headaches can affect your quality of life. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between tension headache and a migraine attack. Tension headaches can be treated with aspirin or other over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
A person with caffeine can eliminate pain faster. Try not to use them more than 9 days a month, or two doses per headache. Talk to your doctor if you still have pain after taking these medicines. Patients whose headaches do not respond to treatment in the primary care setting may require referral to a headache specialist for comprehensive treatment. Combination therapies containing butalbital or opioids are generally not recommended for the treatment of tension headache because of the risk of tolerance, dependence, toxicity and the development of drug overuse headache. If tension headaches are life-altering or if you need to take medicine for headaches more than twice a week, see your doctor.
No matter what type of headache you're facing, the main concern right now is where to find relief that works, preferably something that addresses the root cause of migraines and tension headaches to help reduce the frequency or even eliminate the condition.