See what questions
a doctor would ask.
A tension headache is a very common type of headache. The exact cause of tension headaches is uncertain, but they may be the result of a disturbance of brain chemicals and/or a straining of the muscles of the neck, jaw, shoulders, scalp, or face. Tension headaches can occur infrequently, or they can affect some people nearly every day. Tension headaches occur in most age groups and populations but are most common in teens and adults.
Tension headaches are often described as achy or dull or a feeling of tightness around the scalp. The severity of a tension headache can vary greatly between episodes and individuals. Complications are possible with chronic tension headaches. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of tension headache.
Tension headaches can be triggered by one or more specific substances or situations. Triggers vary greatly between different people and what may trigger a tension headache in one person may not be a trigger in another person. Common triggers include hunger, alcohol, smoking, overeating, anxiety, stress, noise, not getting enough sleep and fatigue. Other triggers can include teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw clenching, neck injury, such as cervical strain, coughing, sneezing, and poor posture. Certain foods may trigger a tension headache in some people. Tension headaches may also be due to the side effect of medications or to hormonal changes of premenstrual syndrome.
Making a diagnosis of tension headache includes performing a complete evaluation that includes a medical history, including symptoms, and physical examination. This includes a neurological examination. A neurological exam evaluates the brain and nerves and such functions as level of consciousness, reflexes, sensation, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing. A referral to a neurologist, a specialist in treating neurological conditions, may be made for definitive diagnosis of tension headache. Consulting with a neurologist or a pain medicine specialist may also be needed to treat chronic tension headaches.
For chronic tension headaches, the diagnostic process also involves keeping a tension headache log or diary to record the timing, symptoms, and the types of situations that occurred or substances that were ingested before the tension headache occurred. This can help to diagnose triggers and assist in making lifestyle changes that can minimize tension headache headaches. The type of treatment and its results are also recorded to help pinpoint the most effective treatment for an individual.
A diagnosis is made based on a history of symptoms typical of tension headaches after ruling out other, potentially life-threatening diseases and conditions with symptoms that mimic tension headache. These include stroke, and meningitis. Depending on the symptoms and individual case, this diagnostic process may require imaging tests, such as MRI and CT scan and possibly a lumbar puncture.
It is possible that a diagnosis of tension headache can be missed or delayed because symptoms can be mild, infrequent, and/or similar to symptoms of other conditions and diseases. For more information on diseases and conditions that can mimic tension headache, refer to misdiagnosis of tension headache.
In many cases, patient compliance with a good treatment plan can control symptoms of tension headache to a degree that allows a person to live a normal active life. Treatment plans include medications and avoiding substances and situations that can trigger a tension headache. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of tension headache....more »
A diagnosis of tension headache may be overlooked or delayed because symptoms can be mild or infrequent. In addition, some symptoms can mimic symptoms of other conditions, such as migraine, cluster headache, stroke, transient ischemia attack, meningitis, brain tumor, subdural hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. ...more misdiagnosis »
The following medical conditions are some of the possible
causes of Tension headache.
There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor
about your symptoms.
Home medical tests possibly related to Tension headache:
Review causes of more specific types of Tension headache:
Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Tension headache, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.
The most effective treatment plan for tension headaches uses a multifaceted approach. Treatment plans are also individualized to best address the specific triggers and severity of the tension headache, the patient's age, medical history, and other factors.
Treatment of tension headache begins with prevention. This starts with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including ...Tension headache Treatments
Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Tension headache may include:
Review further information on Tension headache Treatments.
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Tension headache may include:
Real-life user stories relating to Tension headache:
Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Tension headache may include these symptoms:
Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:
Research the causes of related medical symptoms such as:
Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Tension headache:
Migraine an undiagnosed cause of headache: It is surprising that many migraine sufferers are not initially diagnosed. Although the condition is fairly well known, there...read more »
Mild traumatic brain injury often remains undiagnosed: Although the symptoms of severe brain injury are hard to miss, it is less clear for milder injuries, or even...read more »
MTBI misdiagnosed as balance problem: When a person has symptoms such as vertigo or dizziness, a diagnosis of brain injury may go overlooked. This is particularly true of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), for which the symptoms are typically mild. The symptoms...read more »
Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed on their return. A variety of symptoms can occur in post-concussion syndrome and these were not being correctly...read more »
Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical...read more »
Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see symptoms of pituitary disorders). For example, fatigue, headache, weight gain, diabetes...read more »
Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:
Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:
Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:
Tension headache is named not only for the role of stress in triggering the pain, but also for the contraction of neck, face, and scalp muscles brought on by stressful events. Tension headache is a severe but temporary form of muscle-contraction headache. The pain is mild to moderate and feels like pressure is being applied to the head or neck. The headache usually disappears after the period of stress is over. Ninety percent of all headaches are classified as tension/muscle contraction headaches. (Source: excerpt from Headache -- Hope Through Research: NINDS)
Tension headache is named not only for the role of stress in triggering ... (Source: excerpt from Headache -- Hope Through Research: NINDS)
A common condition characterized by recurrent occipital, temporal, or frontal pressure-like HEADACHE associated with nuchal discomfort. Mid-life onset and bilateral pain are features which tend to distinguish this condition from COMMON MIGRAINE. ANXIETY and DEPRESSION may aggravate this condition. (From Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, pp182-3)
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A headache located at the back of the head; usually caused by body tension resulting from overwork or psychological stress
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
The list below shows some of the causes of Tension headache mentioned in various sources:
This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Tension headache. Of the 7 causes of Tension headache that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:
The following list of conditions have 'Tension headache' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.
Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Tension headache or choose View All.
Ask or answer a question about symptoms or diseases at one of our free interactive user forums.
Medical story forums: If you have a medical story then we want to hear it.
Medical Conditions associated with Tension headache:
Head symptoms (10192 causes), Pain symptoms (6458 causes), Sensory symptoms (7134 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Sensations (6520 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes), Common symptoms (8589 causes), Body symptoms (5672 causes)
Symptoms related to Tension headache:
Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:
These general medical articles may be of interest:
Medical research papers related to Tension headache include:
Search Specialists by State and City