Tension headache- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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If you have ever experienced a headache, you know that it can dampen your entire day. The most typical sort of headache is a tension headache, which might produce minor, moderate, or severe discomfort in your head, neck, and behind your eyes.

Your forehead may feel like it is being tightly banded during a stress headache.

The majority of people who suffer from tension headaches have episodic headaches, which typically happen one or two times per month. But persistent tension headaches are also a possibility.

What are headaches?

Health issues like headaches are rather prevalent. A lot of people go through one at some point in their lives. However, they aren’t all the same. Medical professionals classify more than 100 different types of headaches.

Certain headaches may make simple chores challenging or nearly impossible. Rarely, sudden, acute head discomfort could point to a brain tumour or another major health issue.

What is tension-type headaches?

Tension headaches are the most prevalent type of headache. Frequently, these headaches result in mild to moderate pain in the neck, face, or head.

Typically, they don’t result in other symptoms (like nausea or vomiting). Most medical professionals do not view tension headaches as hazardous.

Types of tension-type headaches

There are two basic types of tension headaches, according to healthcare professionals. The number and frequency of your headaches determine the type

Episodic tension-type headaches

It occurs less frequently (fewer than 15 days a month). If you only get one headache per month or less, your physician may refer to them as infrequent.

Chronic tension-type headaches

It occurs when the number of headache days exceeds the number of headache-free days.Chronic tension headaches occurs continuously for 15 days for over three months in a row.

Causes of tension headaches

Medical professionals and researchers are still determining the precise source of tension headaches. Tension headaches can sometimes be attributed to tense neck and head muscles or bad posture.

According to research, hyperexcitable peripheral afferent neurons may be the root cause of infrequent tension headaches. These particular neurons or nerve cells transmit sensory data from the body’s pain receptors to the brain.

You may have issues in your central pain processing if you frequently experience tension-type headaches. It’s also likely that you’re more sensitive to pain in general.

One’s genetic makeup may impact their vulnerability to tension headaches.

Tension headache triggers include

Symptoms of a tension headache 

Symptoms of tension headaches vary from person to person. A headache of this type can continue for 30 minutes or (less frequently) months. Some people say that tension headache discomfort feels like a band around their head or like someone (or something) is compressing both sides of their head. You could also feel difficulty focusing, irritability or fatigue.

You may have pain that is

  • Constant (but not throbbing).
  • Mild or medium (not severe).
  • On both sides of the head.
  • Better after using over-the-counter painkillers.

Symptoms of episodic tension headaches typically start mildly and disappear quickly. They often take place during the day. 

Symptoms of chronic tension headaches might last for several months at a time.

Treatment of tension headaches

Start by consuming more water. You might need to drink more water because you’re dehydrated.

Insufficient sleep and hunger are two major tension headache triggers. Consider asking yourself when you last ate and slept if you have a stress headache. If your body demands it, a snack or a nap can help things turn around.

If none of those methods relieves your tension headache, you can turn to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. However, these ought to be applied sparingly.

Overusing OTC drugs might result in rebound or overuse headaches. These headaches happen when your body gets used to medicine to the point where you feel pain when it wears off.

A muscle relaxant might be used if painkillers aren’t helping. This medicine aids in preventing muscular spasms.

A medical expert may also recommend an antidepressant to balance serotonin levels in the brain and improve stress management.

They could also suggest different methods, like

Stress management classes- You may learn how to manage stress and release tension in these programmes.

Biofeedback – This relaxing method teaches you how to control tension and pain.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) – CBT is a form of talk therapy that aids in identifying situations that make you feel stressed, anxious, or tense.

Acupuncture – This alternative therapy uses tiny needles to target parts of your body to reduce stress and tension.

Your tension headache may also be relieved by the following

  • Try applying a heating pad or an ice pack to on your head for 5 to 10 minutes multiple times per day.
  • Take a hot shower or bath to ease tension in your muscles.
  • Enhance your posture.
  • To avoid eye strain, take frequent pauses from the computer.
  • These methods might not prevent all recurrences of tension headaches.

Tension headaches diagnosis

head ache

If you experience chronic or recurrent headaches, your doctor may recommend physical and neurological tests before attempting to identify the specific type and origin of your headaches using the following methods:

Pain description

An account of your suffering can tell your doctor a lot about your headaches. Include the following specifics

Characteristics of pain – Does your pain pulse? Or is it persistently dull, acute, or stabbing?

The severity of the pain – How much you can function while you have a headache is a fair indication of how bad it is. Can you perform a job? Do your headaches keep you awake or keep you from falling asleep?

Pain location – Do you experience discomfort in all areas of your head, just on one side, just on your forehead, or just behind your eyes?


Imaging exams

To rule out significant causes of head pain, such as a tumour, your doctor may request testing if you experience uncommon or complicated headaches. Your brain can be visualised using two typical tests, which are as follows

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A magnetic field, radio waves, and computer technologies are all used in an MRI scan to provide clear images.

Computerised tomography (CT)

An extensive image of your brain is provided by a CT scan, a diagnostic imaging method that uses a series of computer-directed X-rays to produce an image.

Prevention of tension headaches

Finding the elements that cause your headaches is one method to stop future occurrences because particular triggers frequently bring on tension headaches.

You can identify the source of your tension headaches by registering your daily suppers, beverages, hobbies, and stressful circumstances. Make a note of every day that you experience a stress headache. It can take a few weeks or months before you can establish a link.

Overall, the best method to avoid tension headaches is to make lifestyle adjustments and control how you react to stress. The stress-reduction technique that fits into your life and that you enjoy utilising is the most effective. You could attempt

  • Massage treatment
  • Doing regular exercise.
  • Retaining fluids.
  • Sleeping soundly and regularly.

Risk factors of tension headaches

Approximately 3 percent of people experience chronic tension headaches daily, women are more likely to acquire them compared to men.

Most people who experience episodic tension headaches only experience them once or twice each month, though they can occur more frequently. The chronic kind typically affects many people for more than 60 to 90 days. 

When to consult a doctor?

Most headaches don’t pose a threat. Headache might occasionally be a sign of a serious medical condition. You should seek medical attention right away if you have

  • Rigid neck
  • A sudden, acute headache that soon grows worse.
  • A persistent fever.
  • Headache following a concussion (head injury).
  • Weakness, slurred speech, or confused thoughts.
  • Above 50 years of age with a new onset headache.
  • An abrupt change in your headache pattern.
  • Headache that just started in someone with cancer or an autoimmune condition.


Tension headaches are frequently treatable and rarely result in chronic neurological damage. Reducing your stress by following a work-life balance and sticking to a healthy lifestyle might relieve you from your tension headache.


How do you relieve a tension headache?

You might only require rest, cold packs, or a lengthy hot shower to ease a tension-type headache.

What is the leading cause of tension headaches?

Muscle tension or contraction in the neck and scalp can cause tension headaches. The muscle spasms could be a reaction to worry, despair, a head injury, or stress. They could appear at any age.

How long do tension headaches last?

A headache of this type can continue for 30 minutes or (less frequently) months. Symptoms of episodic tension headaches typically start mildly and disappear quickly. They often take place during the day. Typically, episodic headaches don’t last more than a week.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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