Headache Signs and Symptoms

Woman at a desk with a headache

How do headaches present?

Tension-type headache usually begins during the teens and it tends to affect more women than men. Tension-type headache 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”

Man with a tension headache

How to tell if it’s a tension-type headache3

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

Tension-type headaches are not the only cause for internal head pain. Certain symptoms and history should be considered for urgent referral for care.

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, nausea and/or vomiting that occurs without history Significant changes in the pattern of headaches experienced, eg increased frequency or worsening severity
  • Severe headaches at night or when waking up in the morning
  • Onset with strenuous physical activity such as exercise

Meet Brody and Rebecca

Man at desk


Brody, 39, is a young executive working his way up the corporate ladder. With long workdays and tight deadlines, it’s not surprising he sometimes suffers from headaches. Brody saw his doctor about it and was glad to hear that these were nothing more serious than tension type headaches, though it impacts his life and work at times.

Brody needs something that works fast to relieve his headaches when he gets them but doesn’t want to take a lot of medicine to feel relief.

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Woman with a headache


When it attacks, Rebecca gets a throbbing headache on the right side, feels sick and finds noise and light hard to bear. As a young mother to a newborn, she’s tired and stressed, waiting for the next migraine attack. All she wanted was to enjoy motherhood but with sleepless nights, the migraines are getting bothersome.

Rebecca wants something that she can tolerate and effective to help manage her migraines.

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Understanding Headaches



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

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Learn about the causes

Discover the causes and triggers for headaches

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Learn how headaches can be managed.

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One pill, two ways to fight pain.

How does Advil® DUAL ACTION work?

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Significant Relief 

See the results that Advil® DUAL ACTION can provide.

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Safety Profile

Advil® DUAL ACTION contains two active ingredients—ibuprofen and acetaminophen—both of which have a well-known and established safety profile.

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