Tension Headache

A tension headache is the most common type of headache that affects people of all ages but typically affect adults and adolescents.

Causes of Tension Headaches

Tension headaches occur due to the contraction of the muscles in the neck and scalp. These contractions may be due to the following:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Fatigue
  • An injury to the head
  • Anxiousness
  • Holding the head in a fixed position for an extended period of time
  • Abnormal sleep position
  • Sleeping in a cold room
  • Clenching the jaw
  • Teeth grinding

Symptoms of Tension Headaches

Patients with a tension headache may experience the following symptoms:

  • Mild to moderate constant pain and pressure on both sides of the head
  • Aching pain at the temples
  • Tenderness in the shoulder, neck, face and head muscles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms usually last from 30 minutes to several days.

Treatment of Tension Headaches

While tension headaches are common, if they occur with regularity you should speak with your doctor to rule out any other disorder. Treating tension headaches can usually be done with over-the-counter pain relief medication. Your doctor may also prescribe a daily medication to prevent or reduce the frequency of tension headaches.

Prevention of Tension Headaches

Patients can also help prevent tension headaches by practicing some of the following methods:

  • Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle
  • Obtaining adequate sleep
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Practicing methods of relaxation
  • Biofeedback training
  • Behavioral therapy

Additional Resources