Tension Headaches: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, More

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: August 04, 2022

Tension Headaches: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, More

Tension headaches are quite prevalent and range in severity from moderate to severe. It generally causes pain behind your eyes, behind your head, and around your neck, leaving you fatigued and drained. A stress headache is typically felt as a tight ring around the head. Tension headaches affect the majority of people once or twice a month. Tension headaches may also be a chronic condition that disrupts your life.

Headaches are a relatively frequent health ailment that almost everyone has at least once in their lives. However, there are several sorts of headaches, and medical professionals estimate that there are between 100 and 150 distinct types of headaches. Minor headaches, rather than strong headaches, affect the majority of individuals; they occur infrequently, continue for a short amount of time, and occasionally go away on their own.

However, severe headaches, such as migraine pain, can cause agonizing agony in your head and neck, making you unable to do even routine chores and daily activities. On the other hand, sharp discomfort in your head can indicate a brain tumour or any other major health concern in rare situations. As previously said, tension headaches are quite prevalent and are regarded as the most serious headaches by medical professionals. Tension headache symptoms are minimal, and they do not frequently include nausea and vomiting. However, there are certainly many varieties of headaches, each with its own set of symptoms and therapeutic requirements.

Tension headaches are categorized into two forms by medical experts: episodic tension headaches and persistent tension headaches. Episodic headaches are relatively frequent headaches that last 4 to 5 days. Most of the time, they last fewer than 15 days. Therefore, those kinds of headaches are really rare if you only get one or twice a month. Chronic headaches are more painful and linger for at least 15 days. And it happens twice or three times in a row. People normally do not want to see a medical professional when they experience a headache once in a while, but according to the survey, two out of every three people in the United States suffer headaches. Chronic headaches are considered less prevalent, affecting around 3% of the total population of the United States, according to research. Furthermore, it was shown that women are more prone to stress headaches than males. Tension headaches can sometimes progress to chronic headaches, which are more significant and unpleasant, lasting roughly 4 hours a day and lasting for 3 to 4 days in a row. When opposed to tension headaches, migraine sufferers might exhibit a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to bright or normal lighting, having a loss of appetite, feeling lethargic and exhausted, and being unable to move or talk correctly

When a youngster suffers from a migraine headache, he or she may seem pale, feel hot and disoriented, and have a hazy vision. A tiny proportion of youngsters suffer from migraine headaches once a month, along with digestive difficulties and gastrointestinal disorders.

Causes Of Tension Headaches

Because tension headaches do not run in families or are genetic, resources have not been able to pinpoint the specific reason. According to medical specialists, tension headaches are often caused by muscular spasms in the neck and head area. Muscle contraction can be produced by a variety of factors, including diet, activity, or stress.

Headache Caused By Allergies And Longer Screen Time

Some people may have allergic responses to certain meals, which might result in headaches, or as we call them, tension headaches.

Longer Screen Time

Long periods of time spent using a phone, computer, or watching a TV screen can put a strain on your eyes, resulting in tension headaches. Long periods of computer use in the office might also result in tension headaches. Driving for an extended amount of time results in tension headaches.

Season or Environmental Change

Seasonal changes can also create tension headaches. Seasonal changes bring with them stress. Stressors are biological or chemical changes that cause organisms to become stressed. Some stresses include starting a new career, losing your job, losing your allowance or someone dear to you, moving to a new area, and getting married. These are all occurrences that affect your surroundings and cause you to fear, resulting in tension headaches.

Alcohol Consumption

Another cause of headaches is alcohol. The body becomes dehydrated after consuming alcohol, which creates tension or plain headaches. One of the numerous signs of extreme dehydration is headaches. When you drink alcohol, it destroys your blood vessels, which stimulates the brain and creates discomfort. This is known as vasodilation.

If you have a headache caused by alcohol, you may replenish your body by drinking energy drinks that are high in minerals and salt. You might also drink a cup of strong coffee. Coffee can assist in relieving headaches and discomfort.

Eye Strain Causes A Headache

When you force your eyes to work too hard, such as gazing at a computer screen or using a phone for an extended amount of time, the eye muscles tighten, resulting in a tension headache caused by eyestrain. These headaches create discomfort behind your eyes and in your brain, which is quite painful. This type of headache produced by eyestrain might last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. You can get rid of headaches by sleeping for a few hours and resting your eyes. You may also avoid fever headaches induced by eyestrain by wearing suitable glasses and taking breaks in between lengthy work hours. 

Dry Eyes

Normally, dry eyes do not cause headaches, although it is fairly normal to have both dry eyes and a headache at the same time. Dry eyes can sometimes be an indication of dehydration in your body, which can cause headaches. However, if you notice your eyes drying out more than normal and it's causing you discomfort, you should see a doctor.


Another cause of headaches is fatigue, which is sometimes referred to as "tiredness headaches." People who are tired usually do not get enough sleep, which causes them to have severe headaches. It's common to feel tired for three to four days in a row, but if you feel this way for more than two weeks, it might be a sign of something more severe. It's time to make an appointment with your doctor. A tiredness headache can sometimes be the result of something more serious, such as a migraine.


Smoking can also induce headaches. Cigarettes contain nicotine, and the stimulant impact of nicotine can cause your blood vessels to constrict, resulting in decreased blood flow to various regions of the body, including the brain, which produces headaches. Long-term exposure to nicotine or cigarettes can make your brain receptors more responsive. If you have a headache caused by smoking, seek some fresh air. It will assist with your headache. Even after that, if your headache persists, it's best to consult a doctor and take some medicine.

Cold or Flu 

A cold or the flu can also cause headaches. When you have a cold or the flu, your immune system creates cytokines, which are made to fight the virus and diminish the infection, but it also causes inflammation, which causes headaches. Applying a warm compress to your head and nose might help ease such headaches. This will aid in the clearing of nasal congestion as well as the reduction of headache and cold symptoms.


Headaches can also be caused by sinusitis. However, it frequently happens when the upper respiratory system is infected, resulting in thick mucus and a loss of smell, as well as pain in your cheeks or around your teeth and a headache. Sinusitis-related headaches can persist for up to two days. If you have a sinus infection, it is best to apply a warm compress to the sore regions, such as the cheeks or nose. Decongestants can be used to aid in the drainage of mucus and the reduction of sinus edoema. Alternatively, sinus nasal spray can be used to thin the mucus. Taking hot steam combined with vinegar through steam or vaporizer might help relieve congestion and headaches.

Sinus headaches can persist up to two weeks if not appropriately treated, however, the duration depends on the severity of the illness.

If the sinus infection does not slow down or heal after self-care, it is best to contact a doctor and take the suggested meds.


Caffeine might also trigger headaches at times. Caffeine use on a regular basis might cause blood vessels to constrict. When you quit consuming coffee, your blood vessels dilate, generating rapid blood flow to your brain, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves and resulting in a headache. Caffeine withdrawal headache is a typical term for this. If you have a caffeine withdrawal headache, it is best to take a pain reliever, use a cold compress, or use essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, or rosemary to reduce discomfort. These can help to calm your nerves and alleviate your headache. Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Take some time to rest or take a power nap, which is typically beneficial in these situations.

Poor Posture

Headaches can also be caused by poor posture. Poor posture can induce headaches by putting strain on the eyes and upper body, especially the neck, shoulders, and back. These types of headaches commonly originate near the base of your skull. If you have a headache due to bad posture, you can attempt certain exercises to improve your posture or sleep properly, such as sleeping on your back or side with a pillow and your neck in a neutral position. Stretching and exercise can help you improve your posture.

Emotional Stress

Emotional stress can also create headaches. Dealing with an emotional issue tightens the muscles around your neck, eyes, and back, creating headaches. Tension headaches and migraines are frequently caused by stress. It can also cause and aggravate other forms of headaches. If you are suffering from an emotional issue, it is usually best to confine yourself to a close one and let your feelings out, or if feasible, go to a therapist to aid yourself. Not dealing with her emotions can lead to more than just headaches; it can also lead to depression and a variety of other health issues.

Skipping Meals 

Meal skipping might sometimes result in severe headaches. When you don't eat for a time, your blood sugar level decreases, and your body's hormones send a signal to your brain that you're hungry. These hormones can gradually raise your blood pressure and constrict your blood vessels, resulting in delayed blood flow to your brain, which affects the surrounding nerves and causes a headache. If you get this type of headache, it is best to eat something as soon as possible and drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Skipping meals and being hungry not only causes headaches, but it also increases acid output in your stomach, causing inflammation and digestive difficulties in the long term.

Symptoms of Tension Headache

The symptoms of tension headaches are really common, and they are easy to detect. There are different types of symptoms for different types of headaches. They all vary from one another. Like is you have a tension headache, then you may experience common symptoms and not very serious, but if you have migraine, you might feel headaches and other symptoms, including nausea, constipation, mood swings and vomiting, which are not present in tension headaches. 

These are a few very common symptoms that are felt and experienced during tension or stress headaches.

  • A dull discomfort or an aching in your head are two indications that might help you spot a tension headache. People suffering from tension headaches may experience a faint dull discomfort over their heads as if someone is squeezing their skulls. It also causes neck and shoulder discomfort. It's like a tight ring around your brow. The pain might worsen at times, creating even greater suffering. If you have a dull headache, it is best to relax and eat healthily; however, if the pain persists for an extended length of time, it is best to contact your doctor since your headache might be an indication of an underlying disease or sickness.
  • When you have a tension headache, you may also feel tightness around your neck, forehead, shoulders, and eyes. One of the most typical symptoms of tension headaches or stress headaches is this. This symptom can also occur when you have a migraine headache, an ear infection, or any other sickness. Adults are more likely than children to have these symptoms. These symptoms can sometimes progress to more severe signs of serious medical disorders, such as brain tumour. 
  • Another symptom of a tension headache is a sliding discomfort across your neck and shoulders, along with a dull pain in your head. Tenderness might also be felt in your thoughts. Scalp sensitivity, often known as soreness, is a typical tension headache symptom. The symptom can also be found in migraine patients as well as psoriasis patients. Psoriasis patients may have an itchy, irritated, and inflamed scalp. However, unlike psoriasis, tension headaches do not exhibit severe symptoms. If the scalp sensitivity persists for more than two days and also worsens the sensitivity, producing discomfort and irritation, consult your doctor.

Treatment of Tension Headache

Tension headaches are frequently treatable and resolve in a short amount of time. There is no need to contact your doctor if you have a tension headache unless it is really severe or you suspect that it is not an attention headache and that it may be something else or a serious disease, or if you experience tension headaches more frequently than usual. Otherwise, tension headaches might be completely relieved by staying at home.

There are a few therapies that are both recommended and simple to carry out.

Drinking Water and Compressor

As previously stated, dehydration can be a cause of tension headaches. You may take care of yourself by drinking adequate water, staying hydrated, exercising frequently, and releasing muscular spasms by making your body free. Using an ice pack as a compress aids in reducing inflammation and discomfort. A hot compressor can similarly be used to accomplish the same task.

Physical Activity 

Physical activity can also assist with tension headaches. Aerobic activity for 10 to 15 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week, can enhance your cardiovascular health and help you avoid tension headaches.

Good Amount Of Sleep

A good night's sleep might also assist with your stress headache. One of the reasons of tension headaches or stress headaches is a lack of appropriate sleep. As a result, anytime you feel a tension headache coming on, it's best to take a nap. So, don't skip meals since an empty stomach causes a headache.

Using Essential Oils

Treating oneself with essential oils can also help you relieve stress. Headaches can be relieved significantly by essential oils such as lavender, rosemary, citrus, and peppermint. Simply inhale the scent of these oils, rub them into your temples for pain relief, or inhale the fragrance through steam or vapors.

If none of the aforementioned remedies work, you can turn to medicine. Over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be used to treat a tension headache. These drugs, however, are not used on a daily basis. According to a clinic, taking over-the-counter drugs on a frequent basis may result in rebound headaches, which means that once the treatment wears off, you have tension headaches again.

If none of this helps and you still experience tension headaches more frequently than normal, you should visit a doctor. They may prescribe you the correct dosage of drugs. They may give pain relievers first, and if that does not work, they may prescribe muscle relaxants, which aid in ceasing muscular contractions.

Other therapies, such as stress management workshops, teach you how to control and release stress without overdoing it. Other therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which allows you to discuss the conditions that are causing you stress, worry, and tension, can assist you in identifying and addressing the core cause.

These are some therapies that can assist you with your tension headache, but it's always a good idea to take steps to avoid recurring tension headaches.

You may always jot down the particular causes of your pencil heads, such as not drinking enough water, not eating at the appropriate time, not getting enough sleep, or excessive screen use, all of which are major causes of tension headaches. As a result, it's a good idea to document the causes in order to avoid tension headaches in the future. You might be triggered even by particular events or surroundings, so identify the source of your tension headache. Make a list of the drinks or beverages that cause tension headaches, as well as any foods that you are allergic to that may cause tension headaches.

Bottom Line

Although tension headaches are frequent and manageable, it is critical to keep track of your symptoms and the amount of headaches you are having. A mild headache can sometimes signal the onset of a major sickness within your body.

If you are experiencing more frequent tension headaches than usual, you should consult a doctor. If you have the worst headache and the pain is excruciating, if you have visual issues, or if you lose your balance due to a headache, it is critical that you visit a medical specialist. If you experience a sudden and strong headache, or if you have pain around a specific portion of your head, or if you have significant pain around your neck and shoulders, or around your eyes, it may be something more serious than a tension headache, and you should see a doctor.

Do not ignore the symptoms for an extended period of time, and if home remedies and self-care do not work, please seek medical guidance; otherwise, issues will arise in the long term, like having brain tumour, migraine, or some kind of chronic illness. 




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