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Tension headache

Tension headache: Introduction

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 »

Tension headache: 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 ... more about Tension headache.

Tension headache: Tension-type headaches can be episodic or chronic.Episodic tension-type headaches are defined as tension-type headaches occurring fewer than 15 days a month, whereas chronic tension headaches occur 15 days or more a month for at least 6 months. Tension-type headaches can last from minutes to days, months or even years, though a typical tension headache lasts 4-6 hours. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Tension headache is available below.

Tension headache: Symptoms

Symptoms of tension headaches can vary between individuals and can be described as being achy, dull, or feeling a tightness or squeezing around the scalp. A tension headache can be mild to moderate and affect the entire head or only a certain area of the head. It is often described as starting in the back of the head and spreading to other areas. Symptoms that accompany a tension ...more symptoms »

Tension headache: Treatments

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 ...more treatments »

Tension headache: Misdiagnosis

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 »

Symptoms of Tension headache

  • Headache - usually tightness affecting entire head on both sides
  • Neckache
  • Constant mild, moderate or severe bilateral headache
  • The pain can radiate from the neck, back, eyes, or other muscle groups in the body
  • more symptoms...»

Treatments for Tension headache

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Tension headache:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Tension headache?

Tension headache: Related Patient Stories

Tension headache: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Tension headache.

Alternative Treatments for Tension headache

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Tension headache may include:

Types of Tension headache

Tension headache: Complications

Read more about complications of Tension headache.

Causes of Tension headache

More information about causes of Tension headache:

Disease Topics Related To Tension headache

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Tension headache:

Tension headache: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Tension headache

Migraine an undiagnosed cause of headache: It is surprising that many migraine sufferers are not initially diagnosed. Although the condition more »

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or 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 those causing a mild concussion diagnosis. The 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 more »

Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines can also occur 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). more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see more »

Tension headache: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Tension headache: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Tension headache

Medical research articles related to Tension headache include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Tension headache: Animations

Prognosis for Tension headache

Prognosis for Tension headache: Tension headaches that do not occur as a symptom of another condition may be painful, but are not harmful. It is usually possible to receive relief through treatment. Tension headaches that occur as a symptom of another condition are usually relieved when the underlying condition is treated.

Research about Tension headache

Visit our research pages for current research about Tension headache treatments.

Clinical Trials for Tension headache

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Tension headache include:

Statistics for Tension headache

Tension headache: Broader Related Topics

Tension headache Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Tension headache, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Tension headache

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)

Definitions of Tension headache:

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)


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