Font Size
A
A
A
2
...

Tension Headache (cont.)

What causes tension headaches?

  • Many people associate the onset of tension-type headache with stress or upsetting emotional situations. However, these factors have not been shown to lead to muscle contraction or reduced blood flow. Although people may have tenderness of the muscles surrounding the head, tension-type headache is not the result of sustained muscle contraction.
  • The most compelling and current evidence points to a central nervous system dysfunction as the underlying cause of tension-type headaches. Thus, the muscle ache of tension-type headache is thought to be a result of increased sensitivity of the nervous system and pain from occasional or long-term imbalances in brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, enkephalins).
    • Studies show that some people with primary headache disorders respond to medications that specifically target and influence serotonin. These are mostly people who have migraine or cluster headaches. Most of those who do not have migraine or cluster headaches do not respond to serotonin-targeted drugs.
    • People with chronic tension-type headache may also have imbalances in neurochemicals. In fact, depression may be an underlying cause in some people with chronic tension headaches. Depression and some sleep disorders are linked to serotonin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2016
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Tension Headache

5 Types of Headaches
5 Types of Headaches There are five main types of headaches including migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches, sinus headaches, and mixed headaches. Knowing what kind of hea...learn more >>
Headache (Mild)
Mild Headache Mild headaches are common but usually do not represent a serious illness. They result from irritation or injury to pain-sensing structures of the head. Symptoms...learn more >>
Neck Strain
Neck Strain The portion of the spine contained within the neck is referred to as the cervical spine. That's the site for injuries known as learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Tension Headache:

Tension Headache - Symptoms

What are the tension headache symptoms you experienced?

Tension Headache - Medications

What OTC medications help soothe and cure your tension headaches?

Tension Headache - Home Remedy

What home remedy did you find most effective to treat your tension headache?

Tension Headache - Experience

Please share your experience with tension headaches.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Headache, Tension »

The International Headache Society (IHS) began developing a classification system for headaches in 1985.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary