What Are the Symptoms of a Stress Headache?

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The symptoms of a stress headache, or tension headache, include dull, aching pain; tenderness in the scalp, shoulder or neck regions; and pressure or tightness on the sides or back of the head or across the forehead, explains Mayo Clinic. The pain is usually mild to moderate in intensity.

Tension headaches may be episodic or chronic, notes Mayo Clinic. An episodic stress headache lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to a full week. In order to be classified as episodic, a patient’s stress headaches must not occur during more than 15 days out of a given month. Chronic stress headaches are present 15 or more days out of a month; they may last several hours or occur on a continuous basis. To fit the criteria for tension headaches, both episodic and chronic variations must be present in a patient’s life for a minimum of three months.

Although stress headaches are the most common headache type, doctors do not understand much about their causes, as of 2015, states Mayo Clinic. However, certain factors appear to place individuals at a higher risk of experiencing stress headaches. Being female increases one’s risk, as nearly 90 percent of women, compared to approximately 70 percent of men, have tension headaches at some point in their lives. Another risk factor is being middle-aged, with stress headaches being most prevalent among people in their 40s.