Tension Type Headache

What is a tension type headache?

A tension headache, also known as tension-type or tension-like headache, is a common type of headache. There is no serious underlying cause for these headaches. Dehydration, overuse of the muscles in the face and head, stress and anxiety are some common triggers for these headaches. The pain is often felt in the scalp or temples, and is often described as a squeezing or band-like feeling. Older teens and adults are most commonly affected. Most tension headaches respond well to drinking water and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen. In most cases, they pass within minutes to hours, and cause no further problems.


These headaches are very common, and most sufferers will typically experience several headaches in a year. There is no serious underlying cause for tension headaches. Although people of any age can get tension headaches, older teenagers and adults are more commonly affected. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but stress, anxiety, poor posture, emotional distress, lack of sleep and a sudden change in temperature are common triggers for these headaches.


The common symptom of a tension headache is a dull, pressing or squeezing pain over the scalp, temples or back of the head. The pain is not usually sufficiently severe to interfere with daily activities. It may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a day.


The diagnosis of a tension headache is usually made based on the symptoms and physical examination. If the headaches are persistent or cause significant distress, further tests may be done to exclude other possible causes.


Tension headaches can be treated by drinking water and taking simple pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some people find that gradually reducing caffeine intake and staying well hydrated helps to avoid these headaches. Stress-reducing activities, such as yoga and daily exercise may also help.


Avoiding trigger factors, taking up a routine of healthy daily activities, learning muscle and mind relaxing methods and getting sound sleep can all be useful in preventing tension type headaches.