Tension headache is the most common headache in the population, with the prevalence of episodic tension headache being approximately 80%. Due to its high prevalence, this type of headache is responsible for significant disability and has socioeconomic impact.
There are two subtypes of tension headache - episodic (most frequent) and chronic.
In episodic tension headache, the most frequent, headache usually arises in the context of an emotional stress event and is characterized by:
- Mild to moderate pain
- Pain on both sides of the face (bilateral)
- Pain characterized by tightness or “helmet”
- Pain that does not worsen with daily physical activity
- Pain and discomfort that may be associated with cervical stiffness/discomfort
- Pain lasting minutes to days
- Pain that usually responds to analgesic therapy
The chronic form evolves from the episodic form, with the clinical characteristics of pain being similar. Headache occurs on ≥ 15 days per month, for more than 3 months per year, and can last for hours to days or be continuous.