Symptoms and signs of tension-type headache

Tension-type headaches

  • Usually affect both sides of the head, sometimes extending to the neck and shoulders. Pain is usually steady, non-throbbing, and mild to moderate in intensity.
  • Sometimes feel like a tight band of pressure around the head.
  • Usually last for a short period of time (30 minutes to 6 hours) but can occasionally last much longer.
  • Are not aggravated by routine physical activity, such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • Do not generally stop a person getting on with their day-to-day activities.
  • Are not usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, although some people may experience sensitivity to light or noise.
  • May be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, bright sunlight, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal (or too much caffeine), alcohol (a ‘hangover’) or poor posture.

Most of us suffer tension-type headaches only occasionally, such as after a late night. For some people, however, tension-type headaches can become a significant problem, affecting their ability to work.

If you are experiencing regular tension-type headaches on at least 10 days per month talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your condition. If you have tension-type headaches on more than 15 days a month you may have developed chronic tension-type headache and could benefit from preventive treatment, which your doctor can prescribe for you.

Read about the treatments for tension-type headache.