Tension Headaches

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What is a tension headache?

Headache -- a condition so common it's the punch line for a number of jokes, but when you're experiencing a headache, it's no laughing matter. Why do people develop headache? What can be done to make the headache better? And, can anything be done to prevent the headache in the first place?

When most people discuss headache, they're typically referring to the most frequently experienced type of headache, a tension headache (also known as tension-type headache). Almost half of adults experienced a headache in the past year; fortunately, for the majority of those individuals, the headache was mild, short-lived, and likely fell into the category of tension headache.

Tension headache isn't limited to adults. Children and teens can experience tension headache as well, with a significant percentage of children having experienced tension headache by age 15. Females are diagnosed with about twice the number of tension headaches as males.

What causes tension headaches?

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The exact cause of tension headache isn't known; however, many factors probably play a role in why people develop headache. This can range from lack of sleep, to skipping meals, or an increased amount of stress (leading to a frequent description of these headaches as “stress headaches”). Underlying illness or eye strain can frequently cause headache. Muscular tension caused by poor posture, over exertion, or anxiety may also contribute.

In children, headache may be seen as a response to changes in school or home situations.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/10/2014

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Tension Headache - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience with a tension headache?
Tension Headache - Treatment Question: Which tension headache treatment worked for you?
Tension Headache - Causes Question: What causes your tension headaches? Do you know your triggers?
Tension Headache - Remedies Question: Are home remedies effective for your tension headaches?

Tension Headache Remedies

Alternative therapies for chronic tension-type headaches include biofeedback, relaxation training, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy to reduce stress. A hot shower or moist heat applied to the back of the neck may ease symptoms of infrequent tension headaches. Physical therapy, massage, and gentle exercise of the neck may also be helpful.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)