What is a tension headache?

A Answers (9)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered

    A tension headache is the most common type of headache. It feels like there is a vise squeezing your head. Caused by the contraction of muscles that cover your skull, this pain runs from one ear to the other, around the front of your head. It’s often caused by stress and lack of sleep.


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  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered

    You know how your belly feels after Thanksgiving dinner when your belt is too tight? A tension headache is the same feeling, but in your head. With nine out of ten women and seven out of ten men experiencing a tension headache sometime during their lives, it's clearly one of the most common pains around. The good news is that it's usually not there all the time, and is usually mild or moderate, not drop-to-the-ground severe, like migraine pain. It used to be thought that tension headaches came from muscle tension, but it's now believed these headaches occur when fluctuations in serotonin and endorphins activate pain pathways in the brain. Tension headaches have more triggers than a rifle range: Stress, lack of sleep, skipping meals, bad posture, clenching your teeth, medications, and being about as active as a comatose slug. Your role if you're susceptible to a lot of headaches? Isolate the triggers to see if you can identify the cause and avoid it.

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  • AMichael T. Murray, Naturopathic Medicine, answered

    The two most common types of headache are tension and migraine. Tension headaches usually have a steady, constant, dull pain.

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  • ARealAge answered

    Tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache; about 3 in 4 adults experience these headaches. More women than men have tension-type headaches. The identifying characteristics of these headaches include mild-to-moderate, steady, pressing pain, and pain emanating from both sides of the head. The pain may last from a few hours to several days and is usually treated by self-care approaches or nonprescription (over-the-counter) medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil).

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  • ADiscovery Health answered

    Tension headaches squeeze your head like a stress ball, making it difficult to focus and often affecting your mood, as well. After several hours, and perhaps some medication, the headache finally subsides.

    About 90 percent of Americans experience a tension headache during their lifetime.

    These headaches generally feel like the head is being squeezed in a vise, or as if pressure is being applied uniformly around the head. They can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.

    Episodic tension headaches come and go sporadically. Chronic tension headaches occur regularly, for weeks or months at a time.

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  • AJacob Teitelbaum, Integrative Medicine, answered
    Tension headaches account for about three-quarters of all headaches. The result of muscle tightness, they tend to start and fade away gradually. When coming from the neck muscles, they cause moderate pain on both sides of, and across, the forehead. Occasionally, tension headaches from the muscles at the base of the skull are felt on the back and top of the head, or behind the eyes.
  • AMark Green, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System

    Tension headaches are actually the most common cause of recurring headaches, but are never severe and therefore these individuals rarely seek medical care for tension headaches. They generally involve both sides of the head and are often described as a “tight band around the head.” The symptoms of significant light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, are not seen with tension headaches.  Simple over the counter medications suffice to treat episodic attacks of tension headache.

    Those with migraines often experience milder headaches of this type, but those are generally considered to be part of the spectrum of migraine, rather than actual tension headaches.  

  • AIrene Semenov, DO, Neurology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    Tension headache is a kind of headache which feels like a vice around the head, dull, may be located in the back of the head, around the temples or in the forehead. There are no associated nausea or vomiting and not sensitivity to lights. It may be triggered by stress and tension.
  • ASteven Meyers, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    Tension headache is the most common type of headache which most people will experience at some time. Tension headaches are typically described as a generalized squeezing or tightening type of pain. Tension headaches are not usually associated with nausea, light or sound sensitivity, or other neurologic symptoms. It used to be thought that the pain of tension headache was due to abnormal muscle tension, hence the name. While some tension headaches may be associated with abnormal muscle contraction, the exact cause of this type of headache is not known.
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