Tension Headaches

Cause of Tension Headaches

Headache research scientists do not know the specific cause or causes of tension headaches. They have not been linked to hormones or foods (as migraines have), nor is there a strong hereditary connection.
There are, however, certain factors that can increase a person's risk for developing this type of headache. Specific risk factors for tension headaches include:
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Temporary stress, fatigue, or anger
  • Poor posture
  • People who move their neck and shoulders a lot
  • People who work at stationary, repetitive tasks
  • Certain chronic conditions, such as people with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMD.
(Click Tension Headache Cause for more information.)

Symptoms of Tension Headaches

The pain of a tension headache is often described as a tight band around the head or a feeling that the head and neck are in a cast.
The pain of tension headaches is steady, and is usually felt on both sides of the head either towards the front or on the sides. Neck and shoulder muscles may also be tight.
Occasionally, this headache will be accompanied by:
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision or other vision changes
  • Hearing changes.
(Click Tension Headache Symptoms for more information, including how long symptoms typically last.)

Diagnosing Tension Headaches

In order to diagnose tension headaches, your healthcare provider will ask a number of questions about the headache, such as how often you have them or where the pain is. He or she will also ask about other symptoms that you may experience. Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam, looking for signs of conditions known to cause headaches. If your healthcare provider is unsure of the diagnosis, he or she may also order tests to rule out other, more serious causes.
(Click Tension Headache Diagnosis for more information.)
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Tension Headache

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