Tension headache refers to head pain associated with stress and muscle contraction. These headaches may occur only occasionally in response to a stressful event. They may also be chronic, occurring frequently. Some tension headaches are nearly constant, with daily pain that may vary in intensity.
Tension headaches may occur when muscles in the neck, face, and scalp contract, which produce pain. The precise cause of this muscle contraction is unknown. Factors that may contribute to tension headache include:
Tension headache symptoms usually start slowly and build.
Constant, steady pain and pressure
Dull and achy pain
Pain felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
Intensity ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
Tightness in head and neck muscles
Headaches can become so severe and constant that they interfere with normal activities and sleep.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The cause of a headache can be difficult to determine.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
—a type of machine that uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
Tension headaches are managed, rather than cured. Therapies aim to stop the headache and reduce the frequency of future episodes.
Treatment may include:
Medications may include:
Over-the-counter pain pills—Continuous use of some over-the-counter medication may create rebound pain when you stop taking the drug. Pain medications are most effective when taken at the first sign of pain and before it becomes severe.
Prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants
Drugs to prevent headaches, if you suffer from daily tension headaches
Antidepressant medications, even if you are not clinically depressed
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a