The Headache Clinic
The Headache Clinic

Tension Type Headache

Also commonly referred to as a stress or pressure headache, the tension type headache is the most common type of headache and affects women 1.5 times more than men.

Many people who experience tension type headache have infrequent episodes that may only last an hour or two. However, around 1 in 4 consider themselves sufferers and have more frequent episodes.

What Does a Tension Type Headache Feel Like? 

Patients often describe this headache as a pressure or tightness, like a vice or band. It will usually present in a bilateral or global (all over) location and is mild-moderate in intensity.  

Because of their constant, draining and annoying nature, these headaches can be just as debilitating as a migraine. Most tension type headache sufferers will experience a more intense pain at times. Migraine has been known to begin as tension type headache.

What Causes Tension Type Headaches? 

Tension type headache sufferers can often be found massaging their scalp to ease the tension that is felt in this area. However, the real culprit is the top of the neck.

Studies as far back as 1977 show the tension in the muscles of the scalp is no different during a tension type headache when compared to those without a headache. However, they did find that the muscle tension of the muscles at the top of the neck was greatly increased during a tension type headache.

Tension type headache has the same underlying disorder as migraine, cluster headache and cervicogenic headache; a sensitised brainstem.

The brainstem receives information directly from the top 3 structures in the neck. If a dysfunction is present within these structures, noxious information will be sent into the brainstem and can play a significant role in sensitising the brainstem.

Because of the delicate structures that are found at the top of the neck, it is important that an experienced and qualified clinician assesses this area.

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