Tension-type headache – signs & symptoms

Woman with a headache

How do patients present?

Tension-type headache

Tension-type headache (TTH) usually begins during the teens and it tends to affect more women than men. TTH is usually described as a pressure or tightness, like a band around the head that may feel like it is coming from or radiating to the neck.1

Signs, symptoms and “red flags”

Woman with headache

Signs of tension-type headache2,3

At least 10 episodes lasting around 30 minutes to 7 days per month
Associated with at least 2 of the following:
- on both sides of the head
- pressing or tightening quality
- non-throbbing in nature
- mild-to-moderate intensity
- not aggravated by routine activities
It should not be associated with:
- nausea or vomiting
- sensitivity to light and/or sound
Woman with a headache

“Red-flag” symptoms2-5

Though common, TTH is not the only cause of headaches. Sometimes, patients could present with symptoms or a history that should be considered for urgent referral to either a doctor or a specialist. These include:

“Red-flag” symptoms
A severe and abrupt onset of headache
Headaches that have suddenly “appeared” in middle-age or older (> 40 years old)
Associated complaints that may indicate problems with the nervous system like a stiff neck, focal signs (drooping face, paralysis on one side of the body and slurred speech) suggestive of a stroke and, reduced consciousness
Other signs such as fever, looking ill and, nausea and/or vomiting that occurs without history of or other symptoms of migraines
Significant changes in the pattern of headaches experienced e.g. increased frequency or worsening severity
Severe headaches at night or when waking up in the morning as, it could be something other than migraines
Onset with strenuous physical activity such as exercise

Understanding headaches

Icon for headache

Headaches overview

Find out more about how headaches impact people’s life.


Woman with headache

Learn about the causes and triggers

Discover the causes and triggers for the more common types of primary headache disorders.


Icon for triple combination analgesic for migraine treatment

What can you recommend to your patients for pain relief from their headaches?

Find out more about both non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments for tension-type headache.


Learn more

Panadol Extra pack shot

Panadol Extra 500mg/65mg Soluble Effervescent Tablets (paracetamol, caffeine)

The ingredients in Panadol Extra Soluble provide fast and effective relief for tough pain.6-10

Learn more & PI

Icon for conditions


Our overviews of common pain conditions explore the causes, signs, symptoms and impact of each condition, and summarise the latest evidence-based management recommendations.

Read more

Products icon


Find out how our tailored treatments can help your patients manage their everyday pain.

Read more