Muscle Tension Headaches

Characterized by pain in head and neck as well as behind the eyes, muscle tension headaches represent the most common type of headache. These headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck, which leads to dull pain in the head, a feeling of pressure around the forehead, and tenderness around the scalp and forehead. The severity of the pain may range from mild to intense. Most people who suffer from tension headaches report having them on an episodic basis, typically one or two times per month. In some cases, the headaches are chronic, meaning symptoms occur more than 15 days per month. Chronic tension headaches occur in about 3% of the population, with women being twice as likely to suffer from tension headaches than men. Other contributing factors or triggers include staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time, being exposed to cold temperatures, driving for a long stretch of time, drinking alcohol, smoking, suffering from illness (such as cold or flu), having poor posture, and ingesting caffeine. Treatment of tension headaches may involve taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin, applying ice or heat, taking a hot bath or shower to help loosen tense muscles, taking breaks from sitting in front of a computer, and participating in a physical therapy program to improve posture and muscle strength.