Tension-type headache




Tension-type headache, also known as tension-type headache, is the most common and least painful form of headache, one that everyone has experienced at least once in their life.

It is manifested by constant pain affecting both sides of the head.

Sometimes, it causes the neck muscles to stiffen and a feeling of constriction around the eyes, as if someone exerts pressure with their fingers. It is characterized by mild to moderate pain, which does not prevent you from carrying out daily activities. It typically lasts from 30 minutes to a few hours, but can persist for a few days.

Tension-type headache mainly affects women. It can occur at any stage of life but typically occurs during adolescence or adulthood.

According to the frequency of attacks, one distinguishes episodic form, in which the headache occurs 1 or 2 days a month, from one chronic form, with more than 15 crisis days per month, for at least three consecutive months.

When to see your doctor

When to see your doctor

If you have occasional headaches, you don't need to see your doctor. It is advisable to consult it, however, when the attacks are repeated several times a week or are accompanied by severe pain.

A medical evaluation is essential when the headache:

  • it manifests itself suddenly with an intense painor, never tried it before
  • it is accompanied by stiffness in the neck, fever, nausea, vomiting
  • arises following an accident or a blow to the head
  • it is associated with weaknessfeeling drowsy, slurred speech, or confused

These disorders (symptoms) may indicate the presence of a more serious health problem, which requires further investigation and immediate emergency treatment.



The causes of tension headache are not yet clear, but some factors that can trigger an attack have been identified. The most common include:

  • stress and anxiety
  • incorrect posture
  • fatigue
  • dehydration
  • irregular meals
  • low physical activity
  • bright light
  • noise
  • certain types of odor

Tension-type headaches are part of the primary headaches, a term used to indicate headaches that do not result from other diseases.

Other types of primary headaches are cluster headaches and migraines.



Tension-type headache doesn't have to scare you because it's not a serious health problem. It is typically treated with the use of pain relievers or simple lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes

Relaxation techniques are a great help for stress-related headaches. They include:

  • yoga
  • massage
  • physical activity
  • applying a warm cloth to the front of the head and on the neck.

Pain relieving drugs

Medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used to relieve pain, in some cases aspirin is recommended. Before taking one of these drugs, the instructions for use given in the package leaflet must be read and respected.

Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen during the first trimester of pregnancy as it could seriously harm the baby, while the use of aspirin is not recommended for children under the age of 16.

Headache from overuse of pain medication

Pain relievers should not be used for more than 10 days a month because their prolonged use can result in a medication overuse headache.

The body, in fact, could get used to the continuous action of painkillers and generate a headache as soon as their use is stopped. your doctor.



If you suffer from repeated tension-type headaches, compiling a headache diary can help you identify what the triggers are, in order to avoid or contain them. Changing your diet and lifestyle can also help decrease the frequency of attacks.

Regular physical activity and relaxation are important steps to reduce the stress and tension that can cause this type of headache. A correct body position, a good quality of rest and an adequate level of hydration are other recommended prevention measures.

According to the guidelines of the Agenas (the National Agency for Regional Health Services) it is also possible to benefit from acupuncture, particularly indicated in children and pregnant women due to the absence of undesirable effects (side effects).

In-depth link

In-depth link

International Headache Society (IHS). The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition

Niguarda Hospital. Headache

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