Tension-type headache

A very common form of headache

What is tension-type headache?

Most people get tension-type headache. It usually has very little impact on them and they rarely need medical help.

Its most common cause is stress.


  • Tension-type headaches usually occur without warning.
  • Tension-type headache is usually described as a pain that feels like a tight band round your head or a weight on top of it.
  • Your neck or shoulder muscles may also hurt along with the headache.
  • The pain can last from 30 minutes to several days.
  • Tension-type headache can develop into chronic tension-type headache when it becomes more disabling.

Treatment options for tension-type headache

Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol are commonly used to treat tension-type headache. It shouldn’t be necessary to take stronger medications.

It’s important to discuss use of any drugs (both prescribed and over the counter) with your doctor if you are pregnant. Using painkillers more than twice a week can increase the risk of tension-type developing into chronic daily headache, and you should also speak to your doctor if you are regularly getting headaches.

As stress is a cause of tension-type headache, you may find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, avoid stressful situations as much as possible, and consider speaking to a counsellor or therapist.