Tension headaches, also known as tension-type headaches, are very common. Around every 2 in 3 American adults have the occasional tension headache, with a small number of people experiencing much more frequent symptoms. Though tension headaches are uncomfortable, they’re not usually signs of more serious health problems. Headaches are a fact of life, and just about everyone gets one from time to time. But, if you’re getting tension headaches regularly, they can easily affect your daily life and ability to function.
The main symptom of a tension headache is a dull ache in the head (and sometimes, the face or neck). People with tension headaches usually feel like a band of pressure is wrapped around their heads. Some people feel tightness or aching in areas like the scalp, neck, and shoulders muscles during a tension headache.
The pain from a tension headache is dull, not throbbing, and you do not have nausea, eye pain, or sinus pain, which can indicate different types of headaches. Tension headache symptoms usually cause only mild to moderate pain and discomfort. However, they can make it difficult to enjoy normal activities or focus on daily tasks. Many people opt out of social activities or struggle to stay productive at work due to tension headaches.
Most headaches are nothing serious. However, if you get a sudden headache that is very painful, and you experience slurred speech, a stiff neck, or a fever along with your headache, seek medical attention right away. You should also get help immediately if you have a headache after getting a concussion.
Episodic vs. Chronic Tension Headaches
There are two main types of tension headaches: episodic and chronic. Both types of tension headaches have the same symptoms but differ based on how many you have and how often.
Episodic tension headaches may last 30 minutes, but they typically do not last longer than 1 week. Your headaches are episodic if you don’t have them more than 15 days a month in a 3-month period.
Chronic tension headaches can last for months and occur 15 or more days each month for at least 3 months. When tension headaches are chronic, they are extremely disruptive to normal life. It’s also worth noting that episodic tension headaches can become chronic, especially if the episodes start occurring more frequently.
The exact cause of tension headaches isn’t known. They don’t seem to be hereditary and can occur at any age. However, they are more common in adults and older teens, particularly females. Most experts believe that stress is a major trigger. People with tight muscles in the areas of the neck and shoulders also often get tension headaches.
Because stress is a potential trigger, risk factors for tension headaches include being under chronic stress from any source, such as a high-pressure job or caring for an ill family member. Other factors that can make tension headaches more likely include:
Eye strain from prolonged use or screen time
Insomnia and other sleep problems
Pain in the head and neck from other sources or poor posture
Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption (or withdrawal)
Minor illnesses, such as a cold or sinus infection
Jaw clenching/teeth grinding
How to Prevent Tension Headaches
You might not be able to prevent every tension headache, but there are ways to help reduce how often you get them. The best preventative steps are lifestyle changes to minimize your stress and promote overall health.
Consider these self-care steps to help prevent tension headaches:
Get enough sleep
Watch your diet and don’t skip meals
Drink lots of water
Limit caffeine to under 400 mg per day (about 4 cups of coffee)
Reduce alcohol intake
Use breathing exercises to manage stress
Take breaks and make time to relax
Many people who are under a lot of stress don’t feel like they have the time or energy to focus on important health-boosting activities like getting enough sleep and eating healthy food. This can make the problem even worse. Taking care of yourself and making time to relax can make a huge difference in how often you get tension headaches.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
You can support my work directly on Patreon or Paypal
Contact by mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact by mail: email@example.com