How Your Tension Headaches Become Chronic


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How You Get Chronic Tension Headaches

Simply put, tension headaches come from muscle tension in your neck, shoulders and upper back.

This tension is usually a result of poor posture and, less frequently, some sort of trauma (like a car accident).

Conventional treatments (painkillers, muscle relaxers) have little or no effect on chronic tension headaches.

This is because they treat the symptoms, not the cause.

The Cause of Chronic Tension Headaches

Here's how your tension headaches typically become chronic:

  • You work all hunched over at your job
  • You continue to practice poor posture at home
  • This posture tightens your neck, shoulders and upper back
  • After awhile, this tightness causes muscle spasms
  • These spasms restrict blood flow to the back of your head
  • These spasms also irritate nerve endings in the back of your neck and head
  • A typical scenario is that you work every day at a job you're used to performing in a lousy posture.

    Mayby you stoop over a drill press. Maybe you hunch over a computer terminal. Maybe you drive all day. Maybe you sit all day with a phone crooked between your neck and ear.

    The common denominator is that while you do these jobs, your back's stretched out, your shoulders are rolled in and your head's jutted out.

    And when you get home, you continue practicing this poor posture by curling up in front of the T. V. , or sitting hunched over in your easy chair.

    If you're like most people, you continue this posture when you go to bed because you sleep in the fetal position.

    When you're caught in this cycle, you've trained your muscles to adapt to this abnormal positioning.

    This positioning stretches out your back muscles, curls up your shoulder muscles, strains your neck muscles and constricts your chest.

    This is what causes your tightness. It's a sign that these muscles are under tremendous stress.

    Unfortunately, It Gets Worse

    The continual strain on your neck, shoulder and upper back muscles causes these muscles to tear (on a microscopic level). Your body tries to prevent this tearing by forcing these muscles to knot up.

    This results in muscle spasms.

    But despite these spasms, some tearing does occur because of the continual strain you're putting on them.

    Over time, these tears heal. And when they do, microscopic scar tissue is left behind. These scar tissue fibers effectively lock your spasms into place.

    Why is this important?

    Because the tightness in your neck, shoulders and upper back and the spasms associated with this tightness restrict blood flow to the back of your head (it's like stepping on a turned-on garden hose). This tightness and spasming also irritate various nerve endings in the back of your neck and head.


    Paul Bacho is a certified athletic trainer in Cleveland, Ohio with over 28 years treating patients with chronic pain.

    He's also co-author of “How to Get Permanent Relief From Chronic Tension Headaches, " a holistic program that he's used to help people from all over the world get rid of their tension headaches.

    To get three free chapters of his program, go to


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