Tension headache: causes, symptoms and treatment

Tension headache is a common conditionWe usually even minimize it when it occurs, unless it is too intense and persistent a disease, it is unusual for people to take steps to prevent this type of disease.

When it comes to headaches, tension headaches are the most common type that exists. In this article we will see what this disease is, what are its main characteristics and causes, the differences with other types of headaches, In addition to its diagnosis and specific treatments.

    What is tension headache?

    The tension headache is continuous pain around the headAs if the subject had a very tight elastic band around their skull. This pain usually affects mainly the lower part of the head, such as the upper part of the neck, as well as the sides and around the eyes.

    The intensity and frequency of this type of headache varies, but in general the appearance of this experience is related to the habits and actions performed during the hours or minutes before the discomfort appears.

    Often, symptoms depend on the subject’s stress level., And when presented typically lasts between thirty minutes to two hours.

    Features of this type of headache

    A tension headache is primarily characterized by a picture of tension in specific areas of the body that cause the headache to explode. The areas of the body where the pressure generates this type of headache are as follows:.

    • Scalp.
    • Cap.
    • Path.
    • Coll.
    • Shoulders.

    When it happens the muscles in these areas contract under tensionTension headaches are often generated. However, it is not known for sure if this is the sole cause of this type of headache, and it is likely that there are many more factors and variables at play.

    The prevalence of this condition occurs mainly in adults, especially women. Below, we’ll go over its main causes.

    the main reasons

    States of stress, anxiety, depression or head trauma are the most commonly reported causes of tension headaches. Some of these causes may be hereditary in nature, Which would generate a predisposition.

    Over time, certain specific jobs can cause tension headaches in people. Especially jobs where it is necessary to stay in front of a computer for a long time.

    Laboratory work, where the use of the microscope is required for an extended period of time, can also cause this type of headache, as well as other work where the person has to perform considerable visual strain for a long time.

    The position of the neck directly influences headaches, maintaining an atypical position while sitting or sleeping will cause muscle tension in our neck, which will inevitably lead to headaches.

    risky habits

    The biological habits associated with this type of headache are: frequent consumption of alcoholic beverages, too much caffeine during the day (or the total absence of it) and excessive consumption of cigarettes.

    The habit of constantly grinding your teeth it can also cause tension headaches in the subject, due to the tension generated in the muscles of the neck and face.

      Differences from other similar discomforts

      As we saw above, there are different types of headaches, and each of them has its own characteristics. The most significant difference is the area where you feel the most tension in your head..

      In migraines, the sharp pain usually appears on one side of the front of the head, while in tension headaches the discomfort is less intense and appears around the head. In contrast, in a headache caused by problems with the neck, the pain appears at the back of the skull, behind the crown.

      Other less common types of headaches are headaches from exertion, sexual intercourse, and cryostimulus. In these types of headaches, the cause does not respond to emotional or organic origins, but rather to specific situations that cause discomfort.


      During a semi-structured interview, the patient is asked to describe their headache, ranking the levels on a scale according to the intensity and frequency with which it occurs. Also, generally an electroencephalogram is necessary to rule out any organic cause very specific if the pain is very intense or frequent.


      Once the diagnosis is made, the best treatment to control or eliminate the headache is determined, which is adapted in each case taking into account the characteristics and habits of the person. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used, for example identify and modify negative thoughts that generate stress and anxiety in the subject.

      When the headache is acute and intense, it would be better to take medication to calm it; Ibuprofen is one of the most common drugs in these circumstances and its use should be prescribed by a doctor. Under no circumstances should we self-medicate, as the consequences can be worse, from nosebleeds to kidney problems.

      Some things we can do to avoid headaches in our lives are:

      • Stay away from stressors.
      • Maintain a balanced diet.
      • Regular exercise.
      • Avoid using electronic devices before going to bed.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bronfort, G. et al. (2004). Non-invasive physical treatments for chronic / recurring headaches. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3): CD001878.
      • Greenberg D, Aminoff M, Simon R (2012). Clinical Neurology 8 / E: Chapter 6. Headache and facial pain. McGraw Hill Professional.
      • International Headache Society (IHS) Headache Classification Committee: The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd Edition. Headache, 33 (9): pages 629-808.
      • Loder, E .; Rizzoli, P. (2008). Tension headache. BMJ. 336 (7635): pages 88 to 92.
      • Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (2008). Diagnosis and management of headaches in adults. Edinburgh: Improving the quality of the NHS in Scotland.

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