Health & Info

Tension Headaches


Tension headaches are characterized by a constant, steady ache that is tight around your forehead, both temples, or the back of your head and neck. Pain associated with tension headaches is usually mild to moderate but can sometimes be severe. These headaches are common and tend to recur, especially under stressful situations. Tension headaches can occur once in a while or can linger for days or weeks. Women get more tension headaches than men. Usually, the frequency of your tension headaches will decline as you age. Symptoms can start in childhood, but they are more likely to occur during middle age and be linked to stressful life events. You may be at increased risk if you have a family history of chronic tension headaches.





Tension headaches are characterized by

  • Tightness around your forehead that may feel like a "vice grip."
  • Aching pain felt at the temples or the back of your head and neck.
  • Constant, steady headache pain that does not throb or pulse.
  • Pain, fullness, or pressure on both sides of your head rather than just one side.


Unlike other headaches (such as migraines), tension headaches nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and noise, and usually are not disabling. Tension-type headaches are classified as

  • Episodic. Episodic tension headaches are headaches that occur less than 15 times per month. These headaches often go away when you take nonprescription medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS).
  • Chronic. Chronic tension headaches are headaches that occur more than 15 times a month aver a six-month period of time.

Chronic tension headaches are related to an underlying problem with anxiety or depression. Symptoms of tension headaches may be difficult to distinguish from those of other headaches such as migraines or sinus headaches. Tension headaches frequently occur along with other conditions such as depression. Symptoms can also be caused by more serious conditions such as tumors or infections, although very few headaches are due to more serious health problems.




Treatment Overview

Treatments that combine other approaches with limited use of medication are often successful. Focusing on stress reduction, a balanced diet, regular exercise and relaxation, a regular sleep schedule, and other lifestyle factors is also important. Studies have shown that stress management therapy in combination with certain medications cam be more effective in treating tension headaches than either stress management or medication alone.

Developing an effective headache treatment and management plan cam take time. And it requires a food working partnership between you and your doctor. To find the most effective treatment for your headaches, you and your doctor may have to try different therapies and different medications until you find the ones that work best for you.