Tension Headache


A tension headache is a condition involving pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck, usually associated with muscle tightness in these affected areas.

Tension headache usually begins gradually and the pain radiates back from the neck, back, eyes or other muscle groups in the body. Such headache normally begins in the middle of the day.

In addition, a tension headache can be either episodic or chronic. While an episodic headache will appear periodically (less than 15 days per month), a chronic headache appears daily (more than 15 days per month).

Incidence and Prevalence

Tension headache is recognized as the most common form of headache. It is known to afflict 69% of men and 88% of women, at least once in their lifetimes. Research also indicates that tension headaches account for nearly 90% of all headaches.

Though a tension headache can occur at any age, but it has been most commonly seen in adolescents or young adults.

Signs of Tension Headache

The main sign of a tension headache is a dull, achy pain or a sensation of tightness in the forehead or at the sides and back of the head. Patients usually define the feeling as having a tight band of pressure encircling their heads.

Some patients also experience neck or jaw discomfort or a clicking sound when opening the jaw. Other key symptoms are:

  • Tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles

Bilateral pain .i.e. affecting both sides of your head equally

Difficulty in sleeping (insomnia)

Mild sensitivity to light or noise

General muscle aching



Loss of appetite

Difficulty in concentrating

Causes of Tension Headache

Physicians stress that tension headaches can be the result of a wide range of factors, from physiological to stress-related and sometimes, it might not even have a clear reason.

Muscle tension is regarded as the main causative factor of a tension headache. This muscle tension is mainly caused by:

  • Inadequate rest

Poor posture

Emotional or mental stress, including stress







Triggers of Tension Headache

Tension headaches are quite often also triggered off by a series of environmental factors or stress. Examples of such triggering factors or stressors include:

  • Domestic problems

Professional issues

Lack of friends

Going on a vacation

Starting a new job

Losing a job

Lack of sleep

Treatment Options

The treatment plan of tension headaches is devised with the following two objectives:

i) To relieve current pain

ii) To prevent further attacks

The various forms of treatment followed are:


Avoiding/ Minimising trigger factors

Stress management

Relaxation training


Home Care

Tension headaches can be effectively controlled and treated till quite an extent with the following home-care measures:

Healthy lifestyle

Stress management

Muscle relaxation

Accurate posture