Tension headache is the most common type of headache. Experts estimate that nearly 90% of women and about 70% of men experience tension headaches at some point in their lives.
Tension headaches can be caused by stress, poor posture or inadequate lighting. They often begin in the afternoon or evening of a stressful day and last from one to six hours.
It usually presents as a mild or moderate ‘band-like’ or ‘pressing’ headache that tightens down on the head, with a feeling of tension in the shoulders and the back of the neck.
Unlike migraine, pain tends to be on both sides of the head and is not worsened by routine activity. Also unlike migraine, there are usually no other symptoms. Despite these differences, it is known that people with regular tension headache often have co-existing migraine.
It is not always necessary to consult your GP for occasional tension headaches. Most people successfully treat tension headaches with over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen.
Regular exercise, stress management techniques, eating sensibly and taking regular breaks from computer screens are all self-management techniques that can lead to a reduction in tension headaches.
However, if the headaches become more frequent or intense or if you are regularly using painkillers, then it is time to seek medical advice.