What Triggers Tension Headaches?

Reviewed on 6/15/2020

What is a tension headache?

Tension Headache
The exact cause for tension headaches is unknown, but the triggering factors are stress, anxiety, poor posture, depression. and more.

A tension headache is the most common type of headache seen in adults. It is so common that we often consider it a normal occurrence.  A tension headache is also called a tension-type headache (TTH). Tension headaches are also called stress headaches, because of their common association with emotional stress.

A tension headache is often associated with muscle tightness in the head, scalp, or neck. There are pain and discomfort in these areas. Most people say it feels like a band or clamp squeezing the head.

There are two types of tension headaches:

  • Episodic tension headaches
    • Occur for less than 15 days per month.
    • Start slowly, often in the mid-day.
  • Chronic tension headaches
    • Occur for more than 15 days a month.
    • Come and go over long periods.
    • The pain is felt all day but may vary in intensity throughout the day.

What does a tension headache feel like?

Most people describe a tension headache as a clamp tightening around their head. The pain is throbbing in nature and builds up slowly, unlike migraine headaches. The main symptoms of tension headache are:

  • Pain in the forehead or back of the head.
  • Pain in both sides of the head.
  • No increase in pain with movement.
  • Pain can last from 30 minutes to a few days, but usually no more than a week.
  • No nausea or vomiting (unlike migraine headaches).
  • Pain may increase with exposure to bright light or loud sounds.
  • Pain is described as "fullness, tightness/squeezing, pressure" or "bandlike."
  • Stiffness or tightness in the neck, forehead and back of the head.
  • Inability to fall asleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • No warning symptoms before the headache (aura).

What triggers tension headaches?

The exact cause for tension headaches is unknown, but the triggering factors are:

How do you get rid of tension headaches?

To get rid of tension headaches, avoid the trigger factors. This can be difficult if the triggers are not identified or they are difficult to avoid. The following remedies can treat or prevent tension headaches:

Are tension headaches dangerous?

Tension headaches are often neglected as benign, everyday occurrences. However, ignoring a long, lingering tension headache, or suppressing it frequently with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, carries risks.

Some of the potential complications are:


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