Feeling the tension?

Headache  Tension Headache

Tension Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints in India.6  In most cases, these will be a tension headache,1  which may feel like tightness at the front or sides of the head.

Tension headache symptoms

Tension headaches can affect anyone, even children. 2 Although these headaches are more common in women than men,2 the symptoms are much the same in everybody:2

  • pain that feels like a tight, squeezing band all over the head
  • pain that is mild to moderate, not severe
  • pain that lasts from 30 minutes to several days.2

Many people who have tension headaches experience one or two every month.3 The good news is that pain is usually the only symptom,2 and there are simple steps to help manage it.

Is tension the real cause?

Tension headaches, as the name suggests, are thought to be muscle-related and closely linked to physical tension in the muscles of the scalp or neck, due to sitting incorrectly2 or squinting to read3. However, a wide range of things can trigger an attack including tiredness, the weather, certain foods and the menstrual cycle.3,4:

Managing tension headaches

Tension headaches can be debilitating, but are rarely serious. Readily available,  non –prescription pain relievers have been proven to work in easing tension headache pain.4,5,

Other things to try include:

  • Regular exercise – tension headaches are more common in people who don’t do a lot of exercise.2 Fitting some exercise into day-to-day life could help.
  • Relaxing and managing stress – massaging the shoulders and neck, applying a hot washcloth to the forehead or neck, yoga, and even having a warm bath can help you to relax.2,3 Specific relaxation exercises may also help.
  • Avoiding triggers – these can include certain foods, poor posture, stress or anxiety, eye strain and even feeling hungry.3For more information on headache triggers, read the article Top 10 Headache Triggers.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep, skipping meals or becoming dehydrated

When to see a doctor

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you are worried about your tension headache, or if you have symptoms such as:

  • headaches are frequent or severe
  • a headache  that  develops quickly
  • a headache that doesn’t get better or gets worse
  • a headache that is triggered by coughing, sneezing, exercise or sexual activity
  • a headache that is different to your usual headache
  • a headache that is accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness, numbness, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, slurred speech, a stiff neck, difficulty breathing, loss of vision, feeling weak
  • a headache that appears after an accident, especially if where the head has received a blow.3



  1. Stovner LJ, et al. The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide. Cephalagia. 2007;27:193-210. Available at: http://www.l-t-b.org/assets/67/91367926-D374-BAA8-AB51FFB2214CADE4_document/Stovner_2007.pdf
  2. Lifting The Burden: the Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide. Information for people affected by tension-type headache. Available at: http://www.w-h-a.org/assets/6/E0ED62DA-F33B-7800-997D29F3966BCFA3_document/What_is_tension-type_headache.pdf.
  3. UK NHS Choices. Diagnosing tension-type headaches. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/headache/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed July 2010.
  4. Schachtel BP, et al. Headache pain model for assessing and comparing the efficacy of  non-prescription (over-the-counter) analgesic agents. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1991; 50: 322-329.
  5. Prior MJ, et al. Efficacy and safety of acetaminophen and naproxen in the treatment of tension-type headache. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Cephalalgia. 2002;22:740-748.
  6. TNS U&A Study, 2012