The exact cause isn’t known, but many factors probably play a role.

When someone complains of a headache, they’re likely suffering from a tension-type headache — your common, “everyday” headaches that produce a dull, squeezing pain on both sides of the head.

Most tension-type headaches are episodic, meaning they may last anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple days, and occur less than 15 days a month. If they’re happening more frequently than 15 days per month, for at least three months, they’re classified as chronic tension headaches. They often come on gradually, in the afternoon. It’s estimated that 30 to 80 percent of adults in the United States experience episodic tension headaches, while 3 percent — mainly women — experience chronic ones.

In most cases there is no obvious cause for tension-type headaches. In some people headaches may be brought on by a build-up of stress from everyday situations, such as a demanding work schedule, a rough commute, screaming children, financial struggles, and relationship problems. That’s why they’ve earned the nickname “stress headaches”. And once a headache strikes, noise, glare, fatigue, or stress can exacerbate the pain.

Non-stress-related causes of headaches, including lack of sleep, skipping meals, excess alcohol or tobacco, catching a cold or the flu, jaw clenching or teeth grinding, staying in one position too long or poor posture, or sleeping in a room that’s too cold may also contribute to tension-type headaches in some. Eyestrain can also cause tension headaches, and other reasons may include alcohol, excessive smoking, or coming down with a cold or the flu.

The bottom line is that there are myriad causes of tension headaches. Keeping a headache diary may help you identify your potential triggers. Talk to your doctor for more information.



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