What are the signs and symptoms of tension headache?

Updated: Nov 21, 2017
  • Author: Michelle Blanda, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Tension-type headache history is as follows:

  • Duration of 30 minutes to 7 days

  • No nausea or vomiting (anorexia may occur) [11]

  • Photophobia and/or phonophobia [11]

  • Minimum of 10 previous headache episodes; [11] fewer than 180 days per year with headache to be considered "infrequent"

  • Bilateral and occipitonuchal or bifrontal pain

  • Pain described as "fullness, tightness/squeezing, pressure," or "bandlike/viselike"

  • May occur acutely under emotional distress or intense worry

  • Insomnia

  • Often present upon rising or shortly thereafter

  • Muscular tightness or stiffness in neck, occipital, and frontal regions

  • Duration of more than 5 years in 75% of patients with chronic headaches

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • No prodrome

New headache onset in elderly patients should suggest etiologies other than tension headache.

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