Tension Headaches in Men --- Causes
and Cures
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Last updated August 20, 2017, originally published September 9, 2015
By Joseph Strongoli, Featured Columnist

A dull throbbing murmurs at the back of your head. The sensation
creeps forward,  each incremental advance constricting your cranium
tighter, like a vise
grip. Aching waves radiate behind your eyes. It’s
been a long day. And it’s about to get even longer; a tension headache
is gathering force, like storm clouds brewing on the horizon.

Tension headaches, also known as
"tension-type headaches" or
"muscle contraction headaches"
, are the most common type of
headaches: they account for nearly 90% of all headaches. They are
often referred to as primary headaches, meaning they are not caused
by an underlying condition. Other primary headaches include cluster
headaches and migraines.

The exact cause of tension headaches isn’t clear. For a long time,
researchers believed that they were caused by tightening of the
muscles in your back, shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. But new tests
that measure muscle tension show that the muscles of people
experiencing tension headaches aren’t always tighter. New theories
suggest that tension headaches are caused by fluctuations in
neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, in the brain. Tight muscles may
help trigger changes in brain chemicals, or muscle tightness may be a
result of changing levels in neurotransmitters. Research is still

What is clear however, is the massive headache that tension headaches
present to us. Tension headaches affect about 1.4 billion people,
around 21% of the world population. In the US, up to 80% of the
population suffers from occasional tension headaches.  Most people
with episodic tension headaches experience them no more than once or
twice a month, while 3% of the population suffers from chronic daily
tension headaches, and these daily bouts can last for more than 60-90
days. Women are twice as likely to suffer tension headaches as men.
Even though tension headaches are considered benign in that they
cause no lasting damage, they do in fact cause significant disability in
their chronic form, and represent a burden on society at large.

Tension-Type Triggers

While the underlying causes of tension-type headaches are still in
doubt, there are many well-known stimuli that trigger the onsent of
tension headaches. These triggers include stress; depression; anxiety;
maintaining your head in one position for long durations (like when
using a computer, watching TV, or reading); sleeping in an awkward
position; eye strain; drugs or alcohol; fatigue or overexertion; skipping
meals; head or neck injury, including years after the injury; clenching
your jaw or grinding your teeth (bruxism); medications, including to
some headache meds which lead to rebound headaches; arthritis;
hormonal changes; foods; allergies.

If it seems like there are a lot of things that can trigger pain between
the ears, its because there are.

Take these 7 remedies into consideration to help you navigate the
tension headache minefield out there today.

Peppermint Oil

A 1996 study at the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany
found that rubbing peppermint oil on the forehead and temples at the
onset of tension headaches reduced pain after 15 minutes, and
continued to reduce pain over the next hour. The researchers found
that a 10% peppermint oil solution had similar tension headache
fighting power as 1,000 mg of acetaminophen.

A 2016 study from Schmerzklinik Kiel, Heikendorfer Weg, also in  
Germany has confirmed the results of the 1996 study, that peppermint
oil is significantly more effective than placebo in treating tension
headaches. This study observed also that peppermint oil is as effective
than either aspirin or paracetamol (Tylenol).

Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm is an over the counter topical ointment used for muscle pain.
It contains various oils including camphor, menthol, cassia oil, and
clove oil. A 1996 study at Monash University in Australia found that
applying Tiger Balm to the forehead relieved headache pain better than
placebo and about as well as Tylenol.


A 2005 study at the Center for Child Pain Therapy in Hamburg,
Germany found that extract of butterbur, a perennial plant in the
sunflower family, has powerful headache relief capabilities. 289
patients were treated with 50 to 150 mg of butterbur extract. 77% of
all patients reported a reduction in the frequency of headaches of at
least 50%. 91% of patients felt substantially or at least slightly
improved after 4 months of treatment, and 90% reported improved
well-being. Pretty outstanding results!


Feverfew is a small bush plant with citrus-scented leaves and flowers
reminiscent of daisies. It has long been used in traditional herbal
medicine for treating headaches, fevers, arthritis, stomach aches,
toothaches, and insect bites.

A 2011 study at the L.M. College of Science and Technology in India
backs up the folk medicine. The authors suggest a dosage of 100-300
mg up to 4 times daily in the prevention and treatment of headaches.
Feverfew supplements are available fresh, freeze-dried, or dried and
can be found in  capsule, tablet, or liquid extract forms.


Acupuncturists treat tension headaches by examining the kidney and its
associated meridians (energy pathways in the body), as well as liver
and gallbladder meridians.

A 1984 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and
Psychiatry treated 48 patients with chronic migraine and muscle tension
headaches. A comparison was made between a prophylactic course of
acupuncture and of medical treatment.

In all, 24 of 41 patients improved on acupuncture, with the
improvement being marked in 9; 9 of 36 patients improved on medical
treatment, with the improvement being marked in three.

Of the 29 patients who changed from one form of treatment to the
other, a larger proportion preferred acupuncture to medical treatment.
The authors also found that a beneficial response was more likely when
the patient had local tender muscular points.


Several clinical trials indicate that spinal manipulation therapy may help
treat tension headaches, especially ones that start in the neck. A 2013
report at the University of Maryland found a 50% reduction of
headache severity after a single 10-minute spinal manipulation session.

Vitamin B2

Also known as riboflavin, this B group vitamin is a potent headache
reliever. A 1998 study at the University of Liege in Belgium found that
riboflavin reduced attack frequency and headache days by 59%. A 3
ounce serving of beef liver or lamb provides 100% of the daily
recommended value of riboflavin.

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Eating lamb helps to relieve tension
headaches by 59%.