Skip to contentright arrow
eMed previously Babylon Health

Tension Headache

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 1st April 2019

Tension headache is a common mild to moderate headache that is often described as feeling like a tight band around the head.


Tension headaches are not linked with any underlying conditions and the exact cause of headaches is not known. It is thought to be due to pain mechanisms and changes in the sensitivity to pain

Risk factors

  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Family history

Typical Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Feeling a band of pressure around the forehead, the sides or back of the head
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain

Common Treatment

  • Over the counter or prescribed pain relievers (although not to be used for too long or frequently, as medication use can itself cause headaches)
  • Rest
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Specially prescribed medications to reduce the frequency and severity of tension headaches

When to speak to a doctor

Tension headaches can often be initially managed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next. To speak to one of our GPs, download the app and create an account today.

It is important to speak urgently to a doctor if you are:

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems, including double vision and blurry vision
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weakness
  • Headache after a recent head injury


Tension headache can be managed and prevented by:

  • Avoiding stress
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Reducing tension in neck and back muscles
  • Exercises to strengthen neck and back muscles

More information


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.