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Tension Headache


What is a Tension Headache?

Tension Headaches, also known as stress headaches, are the most common type of headache seen in adults. They are described as a a band like pain, tightness or pressure that is felt around the forehead or back of the head and neck. 

Tension headaches can last between 30 minutes and several days. Those that occur less than 15 days per month are known as episodic tension headaches. Chronic tension headaches can last for hours and are known to occur daily or more than 15 days per month. In chronic tension headaches, although the intensity of the pain may vary throughout the day, some degree of pain is always present. 


What are the Symptoms of a Tension Headache?

The most common symptoms of tension headaches are: 

  • Throbbing pain on both sides of the head 
  • Tenderness in the forehead, which radiates down to the next and shoulders 
  • Pain often starts at the back of the head or above the eyebrow 
  • Headache occurs later in the day
  • Irritability 
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Problems with sleep 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

In many cases, tension headaches are caused by tightened muscles. These muscles may be tight due to: 

  • Inadequate rest
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional or mental stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Overextersion

Other causes may be poor posture, teeth clenching and sinus infection, which creates pressure around the head and neck. Alcohol abuse or withdrawal, overuse of caffeine, and excessive smoking are other contributing factors.


Who is Prone to a Tension Headaches?

About 30% to 80% of adults in the US suffer from episodic tension headaches; and 3% suffer from chronic tension headaches. Women are twice as likely to suffer from tension type headaches. 

Tension headaches tend to occur more often during middle age, although people of all ages can experience this type of headache. 






This technique involves locating the heart of the trigger/tender point. When this is compressed it may well trigger a specific referred pain map (preferably reproducing your symptoms). This technique involves applying direct, gentle and sustained pressure to the point:


1. Identify the tender/trigger point you wish to work on (see illustration above). 

2. Place the host muscle in a comfortable position, where it is relaxed and can undergo full stretch. 

3. Apply gentle, gradually increasing pressure to the tender point until you feel resistance. This should be experienced as discomfort and not as pain. 

4. Apply sustained pressure until you feel the tender point yield and soften. This can take from a few seconds to several minutes. 

5. Steps 3-4 can be repeated, gradually increasing the pressure on the tender/trigger point until it has fully yielded. 

6. To achieve a better result, you can try to change the direction of pressure during these repetitions.


There are many reasons why you might have trigger points, so it is important to consider your trigger point pain in the context of the rest of your body. It must be stressed that the techniques offered on this page are not a substitute for therapy from a qualified practitioner; although aches and pains from trigger points are common, there can sometimes be an underlying pathology. It is advisable to always seek a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical practitioner or experienced manual therapist.





Stretching is an important part of the rehabilitation process and should begin as soon as pain allows and be continued throughout the rehabilitation program and beyond - Good maintenance prevents re-injury. 


  • Look forward while keeping your head up.
  • Slowly move your ear towards your shoulder while keeping your hands behind your back. 




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