Tension type headaches: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Tension type headaches (TTH) are frequent headache attacks that might last for a few minutes to several weeks. The pain is often bilateral, mild to moderate in severity, pressing or tightening in nature, and does not get worse with regular physical exercise. Tension type headaches are the most common among the different types of headaches. Nausea and vomiting is usually absent, but photophobia or phonophobia may be present.

Tension type headache
Tension type headache

Symptoms of a tension type headaches

  • A permanent pain may be felt on both sides of the head.
  • There may also be tension in the neck muscles.
  • and there may be a feeling of pressure on the back of the eyes.
  • However, usually this headache is not as severe as interrupting your daily work.
  • This pain can last from 30 minutes to a few hours. However, sometimes the pain can last for a few days.

Tension type headaches

Tension type headache

Who has this headache?

Most people suffer from this type of headache at some point in their lives. This headache can occur at any age, but is more common in teenagers and adults. This headache is more common in women than in men.

Note: If this headache occurs in an adult person for 3 months (minimum) and more than 15 times per month, then it is called chronic tension type headache.

When should you seek the doctor’s help?

There is no need to go to the doctor if this type of headache is rare. However, if it occurs several times a week or if it is very severe, seek the help of a doctor.

The doctor will ask you questions about the headache. He may also want to know about your family health history, eating habits, lifestyle. This information will help the doctor determine the type of your headache.

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When to go to the hospital quickly?

If you have the following symptoms, there may be some other serious problem hidden behind the headache. Therefore, some tests and prompt treatment may be required.

1. Severe head injury (such as due to an accident or falling somewhere later).

2. If the headache starts suddenly and the intensity of the pain is very high at the beginning.

3. If the headache starts suddenly and has never experienced such a severe headache before.

4. If you have any of the following symptoms with a severe headache, go to the hospital quickly:

  • If there is a sudden difficulty in talking or remembering something
  • When the hands or feet are weak or numb
  • Getting involved while talking
  • If you lose your eyesight
  • If you’re shy or behave inconsistently
  • When there is a fever on the body, tremors, stiffness in the neck, or rashes on the skin
  • When the white part of the eye becomes red
  • If it’s itchy
  • When you become unconscious.

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5. Also, if you have any of the following symptoms with severe headaches, go to the hospital quickly. These symptoms can occur due to inflammation of the blood vessels in the head and neck. In that case, emergency treatment is required.

  • If there is pain in the jaw while eating
  • If you see blurry eyes or see two in place of one
  • If you feel pain by pressing on the palm of the head

Causes of tension type headaches

The exact cause of tension type headaches is not yet clear in medical science. But some things have been known that play a role in causing tension type headaches. Such as:

  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Seeing the eyes wrinkled
  • Unhealthy body posture such as sitting curled up
  • Tiredness
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Lack of exercise or physical work
  • Bright sunlight
  • Noise
  • Certain scents

Tension type headaches are not a symptom of any other disease.  This headache itself is a disease. This is called a type of primary headache. Examples of other primary headaches are cluster headaches and migraines.


Tension type headaches are primarily diagnosed clinically, using simply symptoms. To rule out any secondary causes, a thorough history and examination are therefore required. No lab testing can provide a diagnosis.

Treatment of tension type headaches

Tension type headaches is not life-threatening. It can usually be reduced by taking painkillers and making some changes in daily life.

What changes will you make in your daily life? If your headache is caused by anxiety, some things that bring peace of mind can help reduce it. Such as:

Regular yoga can help to reduce headache
Regular yoga can help to reduce headache
  • Yoga Exercises
  • Massage
  • Work out

Keep a cold cloth on the forehead or hold a light warm cloth at the back of the throat.


Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help reduce headaches.  It is advisable to use aspirin occasionally.

Paracetamol is best as a painkiller during pregnancy. Do not take ibuprofen at this time without a doctor’s advice. People under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.

Paracetamol is best as a painkiller during pregnancy. Do not take ibuprofen at this time without a doctor’s advice. People under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.

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Headaches caused by painkillers

Taking painkillers continuously for a long time (usually 10 days or more) can cause headaches. Tension type headaches is caused by taking too many medications. Again, it may be that if you stop the medication, the headache starts because your body has become accustomed to the medicine.

If you have a headache after taking painkillers for a long time as advised by the doctor, contact the doctor. Do not stop taking medicines without consulting a doctor on your own.

Home remedies for tension type headaches

If you suffer from tension type headaches very frequently, then you can write in a diary when your headaches are starting in any condition. This may help identify the cause of the onset of headaches. Accordingly, you can get rid of frequent headaches by making changes in your eating habits or daily life.

If your headaches are related to stress and anxiety, then regular exercise and work that brings peace of mind can be beneficial for you. Avoiding unhealthy body postures, getting enough rest, and drinking enough water can be helpful for you.

For those who have chronic tension type headaches, about 10 acupuncture sessions over a period of 5-8 weeks can be beneficial.

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