Tension Headaches

Tension headaches, also called "stress headaches" are the most common type of headache people experience. It comes with a feeling of tightness in the scalp, temples, head, and neck. Tension headaches can be caused by poor posture, anxiety, or depression.

Our skilled, board-certified specialists and professional staff are trained and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of tension headaches. Our integrated, multidisciplinary approach to care is in place to ensure our patients receive the comprehensive treatment they need to manage their individual condition.

What are Tension Headaches?

Tension headaches are constant, dull headaches that feel like a band or a vise is around the head. Tension headaches occur when the muscles in the head, neck, and sometimes shoulders, contract. 

The headache pain may be described as:

  • All over 
  • Dull, pressure-like (not throbbing)
  • Lasting for 30 minutes to seven days
  • Like a tight band or vise on the head
  • Occurring once, constantly, or daily 
  • Worse in the scalp, temples, or back of the neck, or shoulders

Tension headaches can be triggered by the following:

  • Alcohol use
  • Caffeine (too much or withdrawal)
  • Cold or flu
  • Dental problems 
  • Excessive smoking
  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue or overexertion
  • Physical or emotional stress

Diagnosing Tension Headaches

A description of your symptoms is what guides your doctor in making a diagnosis. In some cases, your physician may perform a neurological exam, take your medical history, or ask about your family’s medical history. 

In rare cases, your doctor may order blood tests or imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans to come to a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment for Tension Headaches

Treating tension headaches may depend on the type of pain you experience, how frequently they occur, and what may trigger the headaches. Some preventative steps and treatments for tension headaches include:

  • Biofeedback 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Massage 
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Relaxation or stress-management training 

As a last resort, narcotic pain relievers may be considered. Only after other prescription medications, along with behavioral therapies, are narcotic pain relievers considered.