Tension headaches are episodes of constant aching, tightness, pressure, and pain around the forehead, temples, or back of the head and neck. Symptoms usually occur on both sides of the head rather than just one side.
Tension headaches usually do not stop a person from doing his or her regular activities. These headaches usually do not cause nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to both light and noise.
The cause of tension headaches is not clear. Experts believe there may be more than one factor that causes tension headaches. In the past, doctors believed that tension or spasms in the muscles of the neck, face, jaw, head, or scalp played a role. Now they think a change in brain chemicals may also help cause tension headaches.
Treatment for tension headaches usually includes aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonprescription pain relievers. Aspirin should not be given to anyone age 20 years or younger because it has been linked to Reye syndrome, a rare but serious disease that most often affects children. Prescription medicines, such as antidepressants, may be needed to help prevent tension headaches. Additional therapies, including stress management or biofeedback, may reduce or prevent tension headaches.
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