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Tension Headache

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A tension headache (renamed a tension-type headache by the International Headache Society in 1988) is the most common type of primary headache.
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Description

A tension headache (renamed a tension-type headache by the International Headache Society in 1988) is the most common type of primary headache. The pain can radiate from the lower back of the head, the neck, eyes, or other muscle groups in the body. Tension-type headaches account for nearly 90% of all headaches. Approximately 3% of the population has chronic tension-type headaches.

A tension headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, usually associated with muscle tightness in these areas.

Other types of headaches include:

Cluster headache

Migraine headache

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches. They may occur at any age, but are most common in adults and adolescents.

If a headache occurs two or more times a week for several months or longer, the condition is considered chronic. Chronic daily headaches can result from the under- or over-treatment of a primary headache.

Rebound headaches are headaches that keep coming back. They may occur if you overuse painkillers.

Tension headaches occur when neck and scalp muscles become tense, or contract. The muscle contractions can be a response to stress, depression, a head injury, and anxiety.

Any activity that causes the head to be held in one position for a long time without moving can cause a headache. Such activities include typing or other computer work, fine work with the hands, and using a microscope. Sleeping in a cold room or sleeping with the neck in an abnormal position may also trigger a tension headache.

Other triggers of tension headaches include:

Alcohol use

Caffeine (too much or withdrawal)

Colds, the flu, or a sinus infection

Dental problems such as jaw clenching or teeth grinding

Eye strain

Excessive smoking

Fatigue or overexertion

Tension headaches can occur when you also have a migraine. Tension headaches are not associated with brain diseases.

Symptoms

The headache pain may be described as:

Dull, pressure-like (not throbbing)

A tight band or vise on the head

All over (not just in one point or one side)

Worse in the scalp, temples, or back of the neck, and possibly in the shoulders

The pain may occur as an isolated event, constantly, or daily. Pain may last for 30 minutes to 7 days. It may be triggered by or get worse with stress, fatigue, noise, or glare.

There may be difficulty sleeping. Tension headaches usually do not cause nausea or vomiting.

People with tension headaches tend to try to relieve pain by massaging their scalp, temples, or the bottom of the neck.

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