How Long Do Tension Headaches Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Up to 3 month

Headaches are a popular health problem faced by individuals of all ages. They are caused because of several underlying health conditions. The severity and underlying health conditions that cause headaches determine the 100 or more different types of headaches.

Tension headaches are very painful in both adults and children. They are repeatedly occurring and are most likely to happen in middle-aged individuals, adults, or teenagers. Pain relievers and antidepressants are some of the common medical treatments used to cure tension headaches.

People can suffer from tension headaches from any age. Surveys indicate that women tend to have tension headaches more than others. Such headaches can cause mild to severe pain that is also accompanied by other painful symptoms.

How Long Do Tension Headaches Last?

Tension headaches can last for anything between a few hours to up to 3 months or more. In severe cases of tension headaches, some people have reported feeling painful symptoms for even more than a month. Almost every person alive suffers from tension headaches at some point in their life.

One can have a tension headache usually for 30 minutes to a few hours. The duration of tension headaches depends on the severity and type of headache. The different types of tension headaches include:

Chronic Tension-Type Headache

A chronic tension-type headache lasts for at least 15 days a month for 3 months or more consecutively. It is usually caused along with other health issues such as chronic depression, stress, etc. If not taken care of, chronic tension-type headaches might last for a very long time.

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Episodic Tension-Type Headache

Episodic tension-type headaches occur infrequently. It can be described as a type of tension headache that lasts for less than 15 days a month. It is accompanied by less severe symptoms and pain.

Tension-type headaches are sometimes confused with migraine headaches. Unlike severe forms of migraine, tension headaches are not associated with symptoms of nausea or visual disturbances. Stress is one of the most common triggers of tension headaches.

In summary:

TypeLasting Period
Chronic Tension 15 days to 3 months
Episodic Tension 1 to 15 days

Why Do Tension Headaches Last So Long?

Tension headaches are not caused due to any underlying causes such as diseases. These headaches are considered normal headaches inflicting low to moderate pain on both sides of the head. Tension headaches do not worsen with physical activity and remain a tightening sensation on the head.

Although tension headaches are not a serious health issue, they tend to be repetitive when one’s under stress. Episodic tension-type headaches usually last for 30 minutes to 7 days. Some of the symptoms related to the episodic type are photophobia or phonophobia.

Chronic tension-type headaches are persistent and can even last for years, months or weeks. Such headaches are associated with high levels of personal disability. Chronic type headaches are associated with symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

The fundamental cause of tension types headaches remains unknown. Some experts have suggested that a certain change in chemicals in the brain may lead to such headaches. Some have also suggested that spasms in the muscles of the neck, head, or face may also be the reason behind tension-type headaches.

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Some of the symptoms associated with tension-type headaches include:

  • Constant headache with pain or pressure on both sides of the head.
  • Pain in the back or neck
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Phonophobia
  • Photophobia

Tension-type headaches are usually treated with pain relievers such as Tylenol or Aspirin. Experts suggest a good amount of sleep and exercise be the best cure for such headaches. Depression or anxiety may also worsen tension-type headaches, hence one must approach a doctor to deal with it properly.

Conclusion

Tension-type headaches are the most commonly occurring headaches. They are also known by the names Muscle tension headaches or stress headaches. The causative reasons for such headaches remain unknown.

Stress headaches are of two types- Chronic and Episodic. Chronic tension-type headaches are persistent and can last for a very long time. Episodic tension-type headaches, on the other hand, last for less than 15 days and are not associated with severe symptoms.

References

  1. https://headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1526-4610.1994.hed3408s2.x
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/187196
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