Tension (tension) headache: what it is, symptoms and how to relieve it

Tension (tension) headache: what it is, symptoms and how to relieve it


Tension headache, or tension headache, is a very common type of headache in women, which is caused by contraction of the neck muscles and which occurs mainly due to poor posture, stress, anxiety and poor sleep.

This type of headache can be classified into three subtypes, according to the frequency with which it occurs:

  • Uncommon tension headache: it only happens 1 to 2 times a month;
  • Very common tension headache: happens about 1 to 2 times a week;
  • Chronic tension headache: It happens more than 15 days a month and can also last for months or years.

To alleviate the symptoms of tension headaches, it is important to try to relax, whether through massage, a hot bath, group activities or the use of medications recommended by your doctor.

Main symptoms

Tension headache symptoms may appear after periods of great physical or emotional stress and include:

  • Pain in the form of pressure throughout the head, as if a helmet was pressed tightly on the head;
  • Pain that affects both sides, in the back of the neck or forehead;
  • Sensation of pressure behind the eyes;
  • Excessive sensitivity in the shoulders, neck and scalp.

These symptoms can last from 30 minutes to several hours, but are generally mild and do not prevent daily activities.

Unlike migraines, tension headaches are not accompanied by nausea or vomiting and are not aggravated by physical activity, light or smells, for example. See how to identify each type of headache.

Tension headaches can appear several times during the month, and when it happens more than 15 times, it is recommended to consult a neurologist to start treatment with medications that help prevent its occurrence.

Main causes

Tension headaches can occur as a consequence of several situations that can favor contractions and stiffening of the muscles in the neck region, such as:

  • Stress;
  • Excessive worry;
  • Anxiety;
  • Emotional tension;
  • Bad posture;
  • Difficulty seeing;
  • Hormonal changes;
  • Dehydration.

Furthermore, tension headaches can also arise due to less serious situations such as changes in sleep, appetite or prolonged exposure to the sun.

Anyone can develop a tension headache at some point in their life, regardless of age, however, this type of headache is more common in adults around 30 to 40 years old.

How to relieve tension headache

Treatment for tension headaches may vary slightly depending on the cause, but one of the most effective forms of treatment is to make lifestyle changes that help you relax more easily. Therefore, it is advisable to try to avoid stressful situations and do relaxing activities, such as yoga or meditation.

It is also recommended to exercise regularly and have a balanced diet. Other treatment options may be:

1. Applying cold compresses to the forehead

Applying compresses moistened with cold water to the forehead helps reduce blood vessel dilation and reduce inflammation, relieving headaches.

2. Application of heat to the neck and back of the head

Since tension headaches can be caused by excessive contraction of the muscles in the neck region, applying a warm compress can help relax the muscles and reduce the headache.

3. Give your scalp a massage

Scalp massage is also great for helping to relax and relieve tension headache symptoms, and can be done by following the steps below:

  1. Leave your hair loose and place both hands on your head, without rings or bracelets;
  2. Perform a light massage with your fingertips, in circular movements from the neck to the entire scalp;
  3. Hold the part close to the hair root firmly and pull gently;
  4. Gently turn your neck from side to side and front to back.

To improve the effect of this massage, you can take a relaxing hot bath beforehand, so that your muscles can stretch more easily and relieve any accumulated tension. In addition, natural painkillers such as the following can be combined:

4. Taking medicine

The use of analgesics and anti-inflammatories is very effective when dealing with infrequent or very frequent headaches, helping to alleviate symptoms. However, in the case of chronic tension headache, these medications may not have the same effect, and the doctor may recommend the use of stronger medications, such as Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan, for example.

5. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy sessions can also be very important in some cases to stretch the muscles in the neck and head region, facilitating relaxation and improving blood circulation to the area, which reduces the onset of symptoms. See some exercises that can be done to stretch the neck muscles.