Date of Award

Spring 2009

Document Type





Chronic tension headaches are the most prevalent type of pain experienced by Americans and account for over eighty percent of reported pain (Walling, 2002). Although common, understanding the exact etiology of these headaches is unknown. Many pharmacological methods cause rebound headaches and coinciding health problems. Therefore, treatment methods pose a difficult problem. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the combined use of alternative and pharmacological interventions in individuals with chronic tension headaches to improve their quality of life. This is a qualitative study, based on phenomenological research, which describes the lived experience of chronic tension headaches. Three participants were interviewed who have lived the experience of chronic tension headaches and have used pharmacological and alternative interventions. Colaizzi’s method was used to generate the themes of triggering, enduring pain, exhausting finances, coping, and discovering alternatives. The participants of the study described living with chronic tension headaches as affecting all faucets of life from working, spending time with friends and family, exercising, and activities of daily living. Complementary and alternative methods were found to be the most effective in managing the pain of chronic tension headaches. Nursing implications for this study include increased support and education regarding different treatment methods as well as appropriate referrals to specialized healthcare professionals. Through gaining an understanding of lived experience of tension headaches, nurses and health professionals can appropriately treat and evaluate such individuals.

Included in

Nursing Commons