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What is Tension Headache

International Global Health

What is tension headache?

Tension type headache is the most common form of headache. However, most subjects with acute tension type headache never consult the doctor.



A few common varieties of headaches are:

  • Mild to moderate pain or pressure in the front, top and sides of head
  • Headaches that start later in the day
  • Trouble sleeping and Feeling very tired
  • Irritability
  • Trouble focusing
  • Mild sensitivity to light or noise
  • Muscle ashes

 It may be experienced as a tight band or pain around your head, a dull ache or pressure, may be triggered by stress, neck strain, missed meals, depression, and anxiety.

It may occur more than 15 days a month (in Chronic condition) lastfrom 30 minutes to a week.



There are no diagnostic tests to confirm tension-type headache. Diagnosis is accomplished by reviewing the patient`s personal and family medical history, studying their symptoms, and conducting an examination. Because of the association of tension-type headache-like symptoms with secondary headaches (due to an underlying cause or condition), doctors should consider the possibility of a secondary headache disorder when people present with presumed tension-type headache. This is particularly important if someone develops new/different headaches or has progressive headaches that are increasing in frequency. Examples of secondary causes include medication overuse or structural brain lesions.

At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between tension-type headache and a migraine attack. Tension-type headache is not made worse by physical activity. It is not accompanied by vomiting, and if nausea is present, it is mild. A migraine attack may be accompanied by increased sensitivity to both light and sound; one or neither accompanies tension-type headache. It is, however, possible for a tension-type headache to trigger a migraine attack.



Most intermittent tension-type headache are easily treated with over-the counter medications including Aspirin, Ibuprofen &Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Daily prescription medications, including tricyclic, antidepressants may manage tension-type headaches. Medications combined with behavior therapies may be more effective.


Alternatives therapies aimed at stress reduction may help include:

  • Meditation
  • Relaxation training
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Massage and gentle neck stretches
  • Heat therapy (warm compress or shower)



Seek the emergency evaluation if you experience:

  • A very severe, sudden headache accompanied by fever and vomiting
  • Headache after a head injury or fall
  • Stiff neck, rash, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
  • Pain that worsens despite treatment

 These symptoms suggest a more serious underlying condition, so it is important to get a prompt diagnosis and treatment

Depending on symptoms and precipitation factors, prevention of tension headache includes:

  • Taking time away from stress
  • Having balance of work and leisure
  • Having fund and get enough rest, sleep and regular exercise
  • Physiological treatment such as deep breathing exercised, acupuncture, compress, and shoulder massage
  • Achieving a state of mental and physic relaxation
  • Prescriptions medicines (antidepressant or stronger analgesics)



American Migraine Foundation

Headache Australia

Web MD

Dr. Mercola

Mayo Clinic

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