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Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They can be brought on by stressful events, and they are characterized by mild to moderate pain that feels like pressure is being applied to the head or neck. While most people with infrequent tension headaches do fine with over-the-counter medications, people who experience them more frequently may require more powerful medicine for treatment. In some cases, preventive treatment may also be recommended.

What Are Tension Headaches?

A tension headache is named not only for the role stress may play in triggering the pain, but also for the contraction of neck, face, and scalp muscles brought on by stressful events.
 
Tension headaches are a severe but temporary form of muscle-contraction headache. The pain is mild to moderate and feels like pressure is being applied to the head or neck. The headache usually disappears after the period of stress is over. Tension headaches affect some 2 to 3 percent of people on a chronic basis, with twice as many women affected as men.
 
These are the most common type of headache. In fact, 90 percent of all headaches are classified as tension headaches. Other names for them include:
 
  • Tension-type headache
  • Stress headache
  • Ordinary headache
  • Psychogenic headache.
     

Types of Tension Headaches

There are two types of tension headaches -- episodic and chronic. Episodic tension headaches occur fewer than 15 days per month. Chronic tension headaches occur on 15 or more days per month, with varied pain throughout the day.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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