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Tension-type headache is a widespread form of headache characterised by mild-moderate head pain with no other associated symptoms (such as vomiting or light/sound sensitivity).  It has a very high prevalence with studies reporting a prevalence of 36% for men and 42% for women internationally.  They are classified by the International Headache Society as chronic if they occur 15 days/month or more, or episodic if they occur less than 15 days/month. 

Tension-type headache is often described as a dull and persistent pain that may vary in intensity and is usually felt on both sides of the head or neck.  Some people also report a tight, heavy or pressing sensation on or around the head.  Other associated symptoms can include; tautness and tenderness of scalp, neck and shoulder muscles, restricted neck movements, ache in the upper back area, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping, depression and anxiety.

Risk factors for tension-type head ache include:

  • Poor posture at work, home and when driving
  • Excessive muscle contraction such as jaw clenching
  • Medication overuse
  • Stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression

Treatment focuses on reducing the contributing factors such as:

  • Taking time away from stress
  • Improving your posture and ensuring appropriate work ergonomics
  • Keeping a regular sleep pattern and regular exercise
  • Physiological treatments such as deep breathing, acupuncture, compression and heat
  • Neck and shoulder massage
  • Physiotherapy including traction and joint mobilisation