Tension Headaches: Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Management

Headaches are an affliction for many people, more than 8 million Americans have to go to a doctor because of their headaches every year! [1] There are many manifestations of headache such as migraine, cluster and vascular as well as tension. Tension headaches are a common affliction that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Tension headaches are accompanied by a steady, dull pain and a feeling of tightness or pressure around the head, these headaches can be disruptive to our daily lives. Let’s discuss the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for tension headaches to help you better understand and manage tension headaches.


  • Central to the etiology of the tension headache is muscular pain and muscular dysfunction.
  • The gravity of muscular pain syndromes is often under rated by professionals and laypersons alike. “it’s only soft tissue”- until it’s your soft tissue.
  • The tension headache is a complicated manifestation of myofascial disorder which can include sclerotogenous referral as well as radicular pain subsequent to peripheral nerve entrapment.
  • The stress component of the tension headache leaves the afflicted subject poorly suited to manage other stressors and, as such, light, noise and otherwise nominal social challenges can be exacerbating.



  • Head pain which begins as pain in the shoulders, neck, back of the head, mandibular muscles or the muscles of the eyes.
  • Increased sympathetic state, the natural stress response, which can result in increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, irritability or even anxiety.
  • The muscular elements of the tension headache can develop into the feeling of a band and/or noticeable stiffness.
  • Increased/disproportionate sensitivity to light, noise or social/environmental interaction.


  • Efforts to improve your posture and the ergonomics of your sitting, working or activity environment can improve your control of the condition.
  • Hydration and electrolyte balance can be key for the person that doesn’t already have these basics in place.
  • Exercise can be a two-edged sword. While physical activities are component to tension headaches, we find that increased exercise or activity can be alleviating. A certain amount to trial and error may be necessary.
  • Hot and/or cold applications can be helpful.
  • Analgesic remedies available are many and varied. Natural anti-inflammatories as well as efforts to limit inflaming foods in the diet are worth doing. Sugars are high in the list of offenders.
  • Efforts to stretch or manually relieve perceived points of tension and pain are almost instinctive but most of us don’t seem to be born with the aptitude or understanding to do it well. Self-care instruments are ubiquitous. Foam rollers, massage guns; instruments that range from pampering to pummeling are everywhere to be found. We have seen devices with varying instructions and admonitions but we think it important to note that the neck is a very important part of the anatomy that shouldn’t be exposed to impact devices.

Should you seek professional help?

If what seems like a tension headache doesn’t respond at all to reasonable self-care you could be dealing with something else.

The regular use of NSAIDs can result in effectively putting a piece of tape over a check-engine light, as well as have other negative health ramifications.

The tension headache that persists may develop into chronic myofascial pain and arthridity.

Seeking professional care is easier when you have care providers you can trust. Grovetown Chiropractic has been founded on patients getting better and staying better- on their own.


Donaid Seals


[1] Headache statistics. I Hate Headaches – Dr. Ira Shapira. (n.d.). https://www.ihateheadaches.org/headache-statistics#:~:text=There%20are%20approximately%2045%20million,complaints%20of%20headache%20each%20year.