Tension headache pain can make it difficult to go about your daily activities, especially when symptoms occur frequently. But healing is possible at Henry Ford Health. Our headache experts deliver exceptional care, including a range of therapies to help you get relief.
What is tension headache?
Tension headaches, also known as stress headaches, cause mild to moderate pain, typically worsened by stress. When you experience high levels of stress, the muscles in your head and neck tense up. Researchers are still exploring how this leads to headaches.
Most people have episodic tension headaches, which means they occur a few times a month. Tension headaches can also be chronic with 15 or more episodes per month for at least three months.
Tension headache symptoms
Tension headache symptoms can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days and may include:
- Pain on both sides of the head behind your eyes
- Discomfort in your neck
- Pressure and tenderness in your forehead or temples
Stress headache relief at Henry Ford: Why choose us?
Our team of fellowship-trained neurologists specialize in a broad range of headache disorders, including tension headaches. You receive an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatments from a team that understands your needs.
Highlights of our program include:
- Trusted care: Even if previous tension headache treatments have not been successful, our experts can help. Our reputation for relieving stubborn headache pain draws patients from throughout Michigan. Find out more about headache evaluation and treatment.
- Appropriate therapies: Your long-term wellbeing is important to us, which is why we are cautious about medications. We prescribe specific drugs and the minimum dose necessary to bring relief. This approach lowers the risk of complications, like rebound headaches. We also use non-medical options, like physical therapy for headaches
- Innovation: Henry Ford is an established leader in investigating headache causes and new treatment methods. When new therapies become available, we are often among the first programs in the region offering them. Find out more about headache innovation and research.
Evaluations for tension headache
Your care starts with a thorough evaluation. We get to know you and how headaches are affecting your daily life. Evaluations also help us determine whether symptoms are due to a headache disorder or other medical condition, like a previous head injury.
We may ask you:
- About your health in general, including the care you may be receiving for other medical problems
- What the headaches feel like
- When headaches typically occur and if they are in conjunction with stressful events or changes in weather
- How long the headaches last
- Which therapies you’ve tried and whether you experienced relief or side effects
In some cases, we recommend testing to rule out other causes of tension headache. These tests may include imaging studies to rule out abnormal brain structures or a previous stroke.
Tension headache treatments
We develop a personalized care plan. The best therapies for you depend on the type of pain you experience and how frequent the headaches are.
Tension headache treatments may include:
- Medications: If headaches are mild and infrequent, you may only need medications when experiencing symptoms. For chronic tension headaches, daily medications can reduce the intensity and frequency of your symptoms.
- Nerve blocks: We inject pain medications to block the brain’s pain signals helping you achieve rapid symptom relief. The effects of nerve blocks are temporary but may be enough to get you through a severe bout of pain. Find out more about headache nerve blocks and injections.
- Physical therapy: Specially trained physical therapists use gentle exercises and other techniques to relieve muscle tension that can lead to stress headaches. Read more about physical therapy for headaches.
- Alternative therapies: Relaxation techniques, acupuncture and massage are therapies that work with headache treatments to keep symptoms under control. Find out more about integrative medicine.