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How common are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache. The causes of tension headaches are unknown. There are many theories, but one of the most common is that tension headaches stem from muscle contractions in the face, neck and scalp, perhaps as a result of heightened emotions, tension or stress. Stress is the most commonly reported trigger for tension headaches.

The annual prevalence of tension headaches is 74%, much higher than for any other type of headache. Approximately 20% to 30% of the population experience more than one tension headache per month and they are 40% more frequent in women compared to men.

There are four categories of tension headaches: 

  • frequent episodic tension-type headaches
  • infrequent episodic tension-type headaches
  • chronic tension-type headaches
  • probable tension-type headaches that  differ in frequency and duration.

Probable tension-type headaches are separated into three subcategories, two of which fulfill all but one of the above criteria.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.