What is tension headache?

The term tension headache is somewhat misleading, as it may suggest that the headache is caused by psychological tension or stress. In the past, this was indeed thought to be the cause, but we now know that this is not always so. Tension headache is actually a kind of general name for various types of headache that do not fit into any other category. Tension headache is generally divided into a type that occurs on less than 15 days a month and a chronic type that occurs on more than 15 days a month.


In many cases, the cause is unknown. Hereditary factors appear to be involved. The disorder is often associated with poor posture, the use of painkillers and fatigue, but psychological stress can also play a role.

Signs and symptoms

The pain often occurs on both sides of the head, and feels like a tightness or pressure on the head, as if a band is wound tightly around the head. The shoulder, neck and skull muscles may be sensitive to the touch. The pain is less severe than migraine (patients can often continue their normal activities). Patients are usually not nauseous and do not have to vomit. The pain does not become worse with physical exertion.

How is tension headache diagnosed?

There is no specific test for tension headache, so the diagnosis is based on the pattern of the patient's symptoms. If you visit our clinic because of tension headache, you will always be given a neurological examination to exclude other possible causes of the pain. In addition, the doctor will test the mobility of your neck and shoulder, to see whether certain movements are restricted or painful. The doctor will also feel your neck to see whether pressing on any of the vertebrae causes pain.


Do I need additional examinations?

  • Diagnostic examination for other non-physical factors important for your pain, have already been done by yourself trough filling out your pain questionnaires.
  • If necessary, an X-ray of the neck is made to exclude other possible causes of your pain.

What are my treatment possibilities?

Multidisciplinary Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, your pain specialist will decide whether or not to embark on physical treatment. Based on the results of the completed pain questionnaire, additional examinations can be carried out and, apart from physical treatment, other methods of treatment will be suggested.

Non-physical Treatments

If the results of your pain questionnaire are abnormal, your pain specialist will offer you one of the non-physical treatments listed below:

Physical Treatments


Other Treatments


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