Tension-Type Headaches

In Headache, Neck Pain by Seth Peterson, Physical Therapist Oro Valley

How Common Are They?

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are one of the most common types of headaches, affecting millions of people worldwide. They are characterized by a dull, aching pain on both sides of the head, often described as a tight band around the head. TTH can also be accompanied by muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.

Living with tension-type headaches can be incredibly difficult. The constant pain and discomfort can make it hard to focus on daily tasks and can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression. It can also impact one’s ability to enjoy daily activities and can affect one’s relationships and work performance.

It’s important to understand that TTH is not a sign of a serious medical condition and it’s not a result of a structural problem in the head or neck. The cause of TTH is not well understood, but it’s thought to be related to muscle tension and stress.

How to Manage Them:

Luckily, there are many ways to manage TTH. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Identify and avoid triggers such as stress, lack of sleep, poor posture and certain foods.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises.
  • Try exercise to help release muscle tension and reduce stress (physical therapy can help with this)
  • Try manual therapy (joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization/massage) 
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also provide some relief.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional like a physical therapist (you don’t need a referra) who may know something about how to manage these conditions

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with TTH is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the right treatment plan. But it’s important to be patient and persistent in finding the right approach.


It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone in this journey. TTH affects many people, and there is a lot of support available. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support and encouragement.

So, if there was one thing you learned from this, let it be: TTH is a common condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort. It’s important to understand that it’s not a sign of a serious medical condition and that there are many ways to manage it. With the right approach and support, it is possible to find relief and lead a fulfilling life.