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Condition. Tension Headache

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022

What is a tension headache?

A tension headache is the most common kind of headache. Many people describe this pain as similar to having a band fastened tightly around their heads. The pain is most often mild to moderate. What causes a tension headache is not fully understood, but the condition is treatable. Most of the time, tension headaches are managed by pursuing a healthy lifestyle and finding effective treatments that involve appropriate medications as needed.

Tension headache pain is a dull pain with a tight feeling around your brows or the back of your head and neck and are the most widely recognized headaches for grown-ups.

They are called long-winded headaches when you get them under 15 days each month. If they happen more frequently, they are called unending. These tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to a couple of days. The long-winded headaches ordinarily begin gradually, frequently amidst the day.

These tension headaches can go on for many days. The pain may become worse or lessen during the day. Even though your head hurts, tension headaches, for the most part, do not keep you from your day-to-day activities, and they do not influence your vision.


In less-developed and developed countries, the prevalence of tension headaches is high worldwide, in the East and the West. Some research suggests that over 63% of men and 85% of women will have a tension headache sometime during each year and that virtually every person has one or more tension headaches at some point during their life.

People who have the highest risk for chronic tension headaches are middle-aged women, Caucasians, and those who are well-educated. Studies show that approximately 3% to 5% of the general population has a chronic tension headache.

Up to 80% of adults in the U.S. get them occasionally. However, around 3% have everyday chronic tension headaches.

Tension headache risks

Factors that increase tension headache risks include:

  • Gender: Women are at higher risk of tension headaches than men
  • Age: Tension headaches are most common among adults in their 40’s. People of any age can get a tension headache, but tension headaches tend to occur less often as people age.

Tension headache causes

The exact cause of tension headache is not known. It was believed at one time that the pain of a tension headache was caused by muscles contracting in the neck, face, and scalp, possibly due to stress, tension, or other extreme emotions. However, it has now been suggested that the pain is not caused by muscle contractions.

It is most commonly thought that people who have a tension headache have a more sensitive response to pain and are possibly more susceptible to stress. In addition, tenderness in the muscles, which is often a symptom of a tension headache, may result from a sensitive pain system.
The trigger that is most commonly reported as a tension headache cause is stress.

Types of tension headaches

There are four different types of tension headaches:

  • Frequent episodic tension-type headaches: These occur at least one day per month, but not more often than 15 days in one month for at least three months. The duration of this type of tension headache is at least 30 minutes up to seven days.
  • Infrequent episodic tension-type headaches: These tension headaches occur less than monthly but at least ten times per year. Since they occur less often, they do not such severely impact a person’s life, and they may not require medical treatment.
  • Chronic tension-type headaches: These tension headaches last for hours and may be continuous. They occur at least 15 days out of the month for at least three months.
  • Probable tension-type headaches: These may be any of the above three types of tension headaches. They have many of the symptoms of tension headaches, but not all, these tension headaches are caused by neurological disorders, and they are not migraines. They may be related to the overuse of medications.


When a person has chronic tension headaches, their job and their overall quality of life can be affected. The pain can make it impossible for them to go to work, or if they do go to their job, their ability to function may be impaired. The frequency of tension headache pain can also make it difficult to attend events or activities.

Click here to read about Symptoms.

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