Tension Headaches

what are the causes of tension headaches?



Doctors often see patients with primary or secondary headaches in the United States. Medical offices and emergency rooms report that migraines are a leading cause of doctor’s visits and hospitalizations.


Many different factors can cause a headache. Among them are tensions, viruses, tumors, or diseases.


American households are home to one migraine sufferer for every four members. In other words, that’s approximately 28 million people. In the U.S., migraines affect 18% of the female population and 6% of the male population.


The International Headache Society defined a variety of headache types in 1988.


First, we have primary headaches, migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, and headaches caused by exertion, colds, and other benign conditions.


Another category of headaches is secondary headaches, which may occur by progressive medical conditions like brain tumors, aneurysms, head trauma, hemorrhaging, or brain inflammation.


TENSION HEADACHES – Also known as stress headaches, tension headaches have unclear causes. Many headaches appear to be caused by some kind of internal or external stress — hectic personal or professional lives, pressures at work, childbirth, lack of sleep, or overworking. It is fortunate that the headache manifests itself as mild to moderate pain and is unlikely to interfere with one’s daily life. 


There are two classifications of tension headaches, namely:


  • ETTH (Episodic Tension-Type Headaches) Characteristics


  • Lasting for a period of 30 minutes to a couple of weeks can be expected.
  • Bilateral
  • Intensity ranging from mild to moderate
  • Pain that is tight, pressing, and not pulsating
  • Not aggravated by exertion
  • In this case, there are no symptoms of vomiting, nausea, phonophobia (abnormal sensitivity to noise), or photophobia (an inability to tolerate light). 
  • The occurrence is less than 15 times per month.


  • CTTH (Chronic Tension-Type Headaches) Characteristics


  • You can expect a period of 30 minutes to a couple of weeks.
  • Bilateral
  • Intensity is high.
  • Non-pulsating, tightening, pressing pain
  • It does not worsen with exertion.
  • Absent of vomiting, nausea, phonophobia, or photophobia
  • It occurs 15 or more times a month.
  • Overuse of medications is associated with this condition.


If a tension headache lasts for less than 15 consecutive days in a month, it is episodic. In contrast, a persistent headache lasts for more than 15 consecutive days—the severity of tension headaches spikes with the frequency of occurrence. Episodic headaches often manifest themselves by a tight band of pain around the forehead or the back of the head.


Muscle contractions cause tension headaches in the head and neck regions.


Various foods, activities, and stressors can cause these types of contractions. A tension headache can develop after staring at a computer screen or driving for an extended amount of time. Cold temperatures also cause tension headaches.


Other triggers of tension headaches include: alcohol, eye strain, dry eyes, fatigue, smoking, a cold or flu, a sinus infection, caffeine, poor posture, emotional stress, decreased water intake, lack of sleep, or skipping meals.


quick remedies for tension headaches

A qualified physician must choose the most appropriate treatment method for tension headaches, which is not difficult. Methods like stress management counseling and relaxation therapies can effectively treat some individuals without the use of drugs. Some individuals with tension headaches benefit from analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications, and antidepressants.


Tension headaches can be treated with medication. The use of medications must be monitored for signs of overuse, which could cause episodic tension-type headaches to become chronic headaches.


Drugs used to treat tension-type headaches are anti-inflammatories like Celebrex, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories Naproxen and Ibuprofen, Analgesics such as Fiorinal and Tylenol with Codeine, mild analgesics like Acetaminophen and Aspirin and stress reducers Tranxene, Buspar, and Xanax.


Healthcare providers may recommend the following alternative remedies:


Stress management classes. Stress management and relaxation classes teach you ways to manage your stress levels.

Biofeedback. Pain and stress can be managed with this relaxation technique.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The goal of CBT is to recognize situations that lead to anxiety, stress, and tension.

Acupuncture. It involves applying fine needles to specific parts of your body to relieve stress and tension.



Stress headaches may also be relieved with certain supplements. You should always speak to your healthcare provider about alternative remedies, though, because they can interact with conventional medications.


According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source, the following supplements may help prevent tension headaches: butterbur, coenzyme Q10, feverfew, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B-2)


The following may also ease a tension headache:


  1. Apply a heating pad or ice pack to your head for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day.
  2. Take a hot bath or shower to relax tense muscles.
  3. Improve your posture.
  4. Take frequent computer breaks to prevent eye strain.
  5. However, these techniques may not keep all tension headaches from returning.




Providing headache patient care involves accurate diagnostic assessment to decide which medication is most appropriate and which patients need specialist consultation. It is essential to take a comprehensive medical history to make an accurate diagnosis. Most patients do not require special tests to reach a diagnosis. Most primary care physicians are aware of the available treatment options for headache disorders and are skilled in diagnosing them.


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