A tension headache is a headache caused by tense muscles in your face, neck, or scalp. It is also sometimes called a muscle-contraction headache. Tension headaches are very common.
The muscles of your face, neck, and scalp may become tense because of:
Headaches can also be triggered by:
The symptoms may be:
Your muscles might twitch or spasm. Sometimes your head may feel like it is throbbing.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. No single test can confirm that a headache is a tension headache. The diagnosis is based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam.
Your healthcare provider may ask:
Sometimes it can be hard for you to know if a headache is a tension headache or a mild migraine headache.
You can reduce muscle tightness and relieve pain with:
If the pain continues, your healthcare provider might:
Symptoms usually last a few hours to a day.
Taking pain medicine too often for headaches can cause headaches. These headaches are called rebound headaches or drug-induced headaches. It can create a bad cycle: You have a headache, so you take pain medicine. When the pain medicine wears off it causes another headache, which causes you to take more medicine, which causes another headache.
You are at risk for rebound headaches if you take pain medicine 3 or more days a week. Examples of nonprescription medicines that can cause rebound headaches are aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Some prescribed pain medicines can also cause this problem. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking medicine for headaches more often than 2 or 3 times a week.
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