About Tension Headaches

Not tonight dear, I have a headache

Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of primary headache. “Primary” means the headache is not a symptom of another condition.


Sometimes called a “hatband headache”, tension headaches are often experienced as a ring of pressure extending from the forehead across the temples to the back of the head. They can last for hours or days and may occur simultaneously with migraines.

What It Feels Like

The headache might begin with the sensation of intense pressure that becomes a strong persistent ache. The pain can be as intense as that experienced with migraine.

Sensitivity or achiness might also occur in the scalp, neck and shoulders.


Tension headaches are very common and are frequently triggered by stress. When they are recurrent or chronic, they can be secondary to other conditions, such as insomnia, anemia or eye strain. In these cases, a more detailed assessment is needed to identify the primary condition and/or triggers (other than stress).

Treatment Options

Tension headaches typically respond well to over-the-counter analgesics. Dealing with contributing factors such as fatigue, stress, hunger, posture or other conditions can help to prevent as well as treat them.


Tension headaches usually resolve with attention to their triggers. In instances where they are complicated by other conditions (other types of headaches, anemia, etc), they can be more challenging to manage. If you have recurrent or chronic tension headaches, be sure to discuss this with your primary care provider.