Symptoms and diagnosis
A tension headache is the most common type of headache. It can cause mild, moderate, or intense pain in your head, neck, and behind your eyes. Some people say that a tension headache feels like a tight band around their forehead.
Most people who experience tension headaches have episodic headaches. These occur one or two times per month on average. However, tension headaches can also be chronic.
Symptoms of a tension headache include:
Slow onset of the headache
Head usually hurts on both sides
Pain is dull or feels like a band or vice around the head
Pain may involve the back (posterior) part of the head or neck
Pain is usually mild to moderate, but not severe
The pain is usually mild or moderate, but it can also be intense. In this case, you might confuse your tension headache with a migraine. This is a type of headache that causes throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head.
However, tension headaches don’t have all the symptoms of migraines, such as nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, a tension headache can lead to sensitivity to light and loud noise, similar to migraines.
Tests which may be used to determine the cause of a tension headache may include:
Blood tests. Various blood chemistry and other laboratory tests may be run to check for underlying conditions.
Sinus X-rays. A diagnostic imaging procedure to evaluate for congestion or other problems that may be corrected.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard X-rays.