Diagnosing the cause of persistent daily headache can be difficult. People who visit the emergency room with disabling headache may be misdiagnosed as tension-type headaches instead of migraines. It is important to choose a doctor who is sensitive to the needs of headache sufferers and is aware of the latest advances in treatment.
According to the International Headache Society, a diagnosis of tension-type headache is suggested by the following symptoms:
- Pressing or tightening (but non-pulsating) feeling
- Mild-to-moderate pain on both sides of the head
- Not aggravated by routine physical activity (such as walking or climbing stairs)
In episodic tension-type headaches:
- No nausea or vomiting
- Photophobia (intolerance of light) or phonophobia (intolerance of sound) may be absent or one of these symptoms (but not both) may be present
In chronic tension-type headaches:
- No vomiting
- No moderate or severe nausea
- No more than one of the following symptoms: Mild nausea, photophobia, or phonophobia
- Some types of chronic tension headache may include tenderness upon manual palpitation of the head (pericranial tenderness).
Differentiating Medication-Overuse (Rebound) Headache from Tension-Type Headache.
Review Date: 11/15/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.